The Washington Post
Friday, March 3, 1995
Nuclear Double Standard; Russia's interests in the matter of the Iran reactor may not conflict with ours
On the way to pressuring Russia into withdrawing from its
agreement to provide Iran with nuclear reactor technology, the
United States may well have ensured itself a rougher ride in
securing the permanent extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. Although the administration has designated the passage of a
permanent, unconditional NPT as a priority, it will have to overcome
mounting criticism among those undecided countries which say that
the nuclear regime has benefited only the Western industrialized
nations and their allies -- creating an unfair and counterproductive
Such complaints will be difficult to refute when 172 nations
meet next month in New York to decide on the future of the treaty.
Since its adoption 25 years ago, the NPT has drawn criticism from
signatories and non-signatories alike for what they say have been
halfhearted efforts on the part of the major nuclear powers to meet
the disarmament objectives outlined in the 1970 pact. More recently,
criticism has been focused on the other provision outlined in the
treaty that ensures those who agreed to abstain from developing
nuclear weapons access to peaceful nuclear power technology.
The United States, they say, has been at the forefront of
creating this double standard, which is evident in the way it views
the activities of, say, Japan and Israel -- its allies -- as opposed
to countries such as Pakistan, China, North Korea and now Iran.
With respect to Russia's contract to provide "peaceful"
nuclear power technology to Iran, the Clinton administration
deserves credit for decoupling the volatile issue from U.S. aid to
Russia -- especially Nunn-Lugar funds for disarmament. But Warren
Christopher's reiterated stance that the United States opposes "any
nuclear cooperation with Iran by Russia or other countries"
underscores the double-standard reality, further threatening the
prospects for a permanent unconditional pact.
Iran, as a sovereign nation and an NPT signatory, has a legal
right to acquire a nuclear reactor if it agrees to the International
Atomic Energy Agency inspections and other safeguards, which it has
apparently done. Our inflexible opposition to this action not only
compromises our ability to influence the terms of the
Russian-Iranian deal, it could reduce Iran or any other country's
incentive to work within international structures for nuclear
cooperation -- though it is decidedly in our interests that they
should do so.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich has also thrown gasoline on the
smoldering fire, linking this deal with aid to Russia and demonizing
all of Islam. Despite assurances that Russia will be providing the
technology for a civilian program within the agreed framework of
both NPT and the IAEA, Gingrich has been unmoved, citing the dangers
of Iran. Last week he even linked this matter to the threat of
"Islamic totalitarianism on a worldwide basis." Furthermore, he
said, Russia's interests in the deal clearly diverge from our own.
I am not so sure Russia's interests in this matter conflict
at all with those of the United States. Apart, perhaps, from the
economic rivalry of such a sale, Russia has no interest in helping
establish a nuclear weapons-capable Muslim state on its southern
periphery. Indeed, it has strong reasons to be fearful of such an
First, there is a sizable Muslim population within Russia's
borders and in the outlying former Soviet states. Second, it is
currently fighting a war with one of its own Muslim outposts,
Chechnya -- a conflict, by the way, in which the sympathy of the
Muslim world has been drawn to Chechnya. Apart from the attractive
financial aspects of the deal, Russia may see great strategic
benefit in engaging in a cooperative agreement with Iran at
precisely this time, especially since the Chechen conflict can only
drag on indefinitely with the help of the Muslim world.
But in the final analysis, the United States' handling of
this issue has done more than increase tensions between this country
and Iran and Russia. It has underscored the vulnerabilities of the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself and revealed the
inconsistency of our own policies. For instance, earlier this week,
a Russian nuclear ministry spokesman accused the United States of
duplicity in its position on the Iranian deal, citing Washington's
intention to send the same kind of reactors to North Korea as part
of the Carter-brokered settlement last June. The U.S. action may
subvert the extension of the NPT when it comes up next month, he
While the future nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea
-- or any other country led by an authoritarian regime -- are of
vital national concern, we are more likely to meet our long- term
objectives if worrisome countries such as Iran remain within the NPT
framework. And certainly inflammatory rhetoric, bossiness and double
standards won't help to get it passed.
The writer is chairman of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies.
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IRAN HAS 'NO PROGRAM TO PRODUCE FISSILE MATERIAL,' U.S. ENVOY SAYS
Thursday, February 2, 1995
Vol. 36, No. 5
IRAN HAS 'NO PROGRAM TO PRODUCE FISSILE MATERIAL,' U.S. ENVOY SAYS
Mark Hibbs, New York and Washington; Neal Sandler, Jersusalem
Adding to backtracking statements of U.S. government officials in
recent weeks, Washington's leading negotiator for the extension of the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) said January 26 that the Islamic
Republic of Iran has ''no current program" for the production of
weapons-grade fissile materials.
''They are not that far along," Thomas Graham, Special U.S.
Representative for Nonproliferation, a senior official at the Arms
Control & Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and chief U.S. NPT extension
negotiator told Nucleonics Week.
In the past, officials at the U.S. Department of State and other
agencies had asserted that Iran did have such a program. U.S. agency
officials, requesting anonymity, claimed then that, in addition to
experimental efforts related to uranium enrichment, Iran had embarked on
a development program for plutonium separation (NW, 24 Sept. '92, 2). In
support of that statement, European officials said that Iran had
obtained key chemicals used to separate plutonium from irradiated
uranium fuel (NW, 16 Dec. '93, 10).
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has hotly contested such
assertions. ''The rumors of such activities are completely baseless,"
said Mohammed Sadegh Ayatollahi, Iran's representative to the IAEA in
Graham said for the record that the U.S. government ''had reached
the conclusion" that Iran ''had made a decision to develop a nuclear
Another U.S. official attending the Fourth Preparatory Committee
(Prepcom) for the Review & Extension Conference of the NPT in New York
last week backed Graham. But he refused to provide any details, saying,
''What (Graham) said is all you are allowed to know."
According to other U.S. and western European officials, however,
unsubstantiated and blanket assertions that Iran has nuclear weapons
ambitions ''don't mean very much." According to one, ''Claiming that
Costa Rica or Honduras can get the bomb is just about as credible--five
to 10 to 15 years is a lot of time for any NPT party with little
These sources said that, at the AEOI, officials are intent on
developing a peaceful nuclear program, including constructing power
reactors in cooperation with Russia and China. Other Iranian officials
outside of AEOI ''have stated in Iran that Iran should have nuclear
weapons capabilities," the official said, ''But these personalities
represent organizations which have no known role in Iran's nuclear
program and--unlike the case in Iraq--have no nuclear expertise. The
AEOI, not the Revolutionary Guard or other groups, is in sole control of
Iran's nuclear capabilities."
In particular, assertions by unnamed Israeli officials in recent
weeks that Iran may be able to develop a nuclear bomb in as little as
five years have since been seen as ''an embarrassment" by the Israeli
government, according to well-placed Israeli sources. ''There is a
consensus now in the expert community that (the Israelis) shouldn't have
said that, that their credibility has suffered as a result."
The number arose in a briefing given the New York Times Cairo
correspondent. ''The Israelis told him Iran was getting close to a bomb,
but have had to walk their claims back since," one Israeli source said.
"In fact," the Israeli expert advised, ''the decision by the U.S. and
the West to deny Iran nuclear supply rests on very shaky grounds,"
since no evidence has been forthcoming to demonstrate claims that Iran
has a nuclear weapons program.
Earlier in January, Iran's intentions were a focus of talks when
U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry visited Israel. Prime Minister
and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin estimated then that Iran was seven to
10 years away from producing a nuclear weapons, but Perry said Iran was
trying to take short cuts by obtaining technology and know-how from
ex-Soviet republics, North Korea, and China.
Israeli officials have claimed that the Iranians are trying to buy
various weapons technologies, and object to an agreement just signed
between Russia and Iran that, the Israelis claim, will let Iranian
technicians and scientists to train in Russia in fields useful in
nuclear weapons development. The officials assert the Iranians have
spread out development of nuclear weapons to several distant sites, and
Israel Defense Forces chief of planning Major General Uzi Dayan said
Iran's decision to speed up the pace of its nuclear program, along with
the potential for short cuts, meant Israel might have to take decisions
in 1995 on a response.
Concern about Iran's intentions continued to play a role at the
Fourth Prepcom in New York last week, following Iran's leading role in
raising technical objections to the agenda and the rules of procedure at
the Third Prepcom in Geneva last fall. But, in contrast to the Geneva
meeting, Iran adopted a low-key stance in New York. Iran succeeded in
getting most of its objections to the agenda of the NPT extension
conference addressed, but its delegates also compromised (see related
story, this issue).
Skeptics argued after the end of the Fourth Prepcom that, since the
crucial decision making on how to extend the NPT was remitted until
early April, and since no agreement had been reached on how to write the
final document for the review conference, ''there are still paths for
Iran to have a major impact" when the diplomatic negotiation gets
underway in mid-April.
According to a member of one leading western European delegation at
the Fourth Prepcom last week, ''If I were Iran, I would be holding out
against any extension of the NPT for as long as possible, in order to
get as many concessions as possible" from the advanced nuclear states.
''If Iran is successful in obtaining a 'rolling' series of five-year
extensions, they win,'' one senior western official said, ''since at
each extension deadline, they can pressure the nuclear weapons states
and the advanced suppliers to make concessions in their interest."
However, contrary to those who assert that Iran wants to limit any
extension to five years or less, this official said, ''If Iran doesn't
help us extend the NPT for a longer horizon than a couple of years, no
advanced country will be willing to provide it with the nuclear
cooperation it seeks. If there is a 'rolling' extension, advanced
country suppliers will overcome their hesitations and will help Iran
build up its nuclear energy infrastructure."
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IAEA Has No Evidence Of Nuke Weapons
APS Diplomat Recorder
Saturday, January 14, 1995
Vol. 42, No. 2
IRAN - Jan. 10 - IAEA Has No Evidence Of Nuke Weapons
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says in a statement at
its HQ in Vienna that "nothing indicates that Iran is engaged in a
secret nuclear programme". The UN nuclear watchdog's spokesman
Hans-Friedrich Meyer adds that IAEA inspections of Iranian nuclear
sites had uncovered no installations in contravention of its
commitments to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (Tehran signed the
treaty in 1970 and IAEA teams have regularly inspected its nuclear
installations since 1974). Meyer says that "Iran is a country that is
very open to IAEA monitoring and, on request, also allows access to
nuclear installations that are not on the list of sites subject to IAEA
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IRAN-DISARMAMENT: "NO EVIDENCE" OF IRANIAN NUCLEAR BOMB-IAEA
Inter Press Service
Tuesday, January 10, 1995
IRAN-DISARMAMENT: "NO EVIDENCE" OF IRANIAN NUCLEAR BOMB --
By Senthil Ratnasabapathy
VIENNA, Jan. 10 (IPS) -- The United Nations body entrusted with
nuclear safeguards says no country has to date informed it of any
facilities in Iran that may be used for making a nuclear bomb.
A spokesman for the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) today said neither Israel nor the United States have provided
the agency with evidence of Iranian facilities where clandestine
nuclear bomb making program may be in progress.
"If they know about (NPT-illegal) Iranian facilities, they could give
it to us," the spokesman told IPS.
Top United States and Israeli officials have over the past week
claimed Iran is closer to making a nuclear bomb than previously
The New York Times has quoted senior officials as saying Iran could
make a nuclear bomb, perhaps within five years. U.S. Defense Secretary
William Perry told reporters in Israel yesterday that he had agreed
with the Israeli government that seven to 15 years was a "reasonable
In early December U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director
James Woolsey claimed Iran was eight to 10 years away from building
nuclear weapons. He has also accused Iran of trying to buy ready-made
atomic arms and Russian nuclear material.
Iran is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which
forbids non-nuclear weapons states -- also known as "Have Nots" -- to
make nuclear bombs or acquire the technology to do so.
The treaty, which expires in April, allows the Have Nots only
civilian nuclear facilities, which they have to declare and allow IAEA
The NPT allows the IAEA to ask for extra inspections if it has doubts
based on concrete information that the treaty is being covertly broken.
The IAEA spokesman said the agency had run between two and four
inspections at Iran's declared sites every year since Teheran signed,
"Up to now we have had no reason to report to the (IAEA) Board of
Governors (of any possible violation of the NPT)," the spokesman told
IPS. Iran, he added, is one of the few countries that has allowed the
IAEA to conduct inspections at sites not formally included under the
NPT "safeguards agreement".
IAEA teams have visited the country twice in the past three years and
inspected sites which were not under the safeguards agreement, he said.
An IAEA team that visited Iran in November 1993 saw all the locations
and laboratories it wished to visit and had "open and fruitful
discussions" on points of mutual interest.
"Usually inspections are allowed only at buildings which are
declared as having nuclear material but during the last visit our
inspectors were allowed to visit even buildings which were not declared
as having nuclear material," the spokesman added.
The United States and Israeli allegations follow Iran's signing of an
agreement with Russia to complete work on a 1,200 megawatt (MW) reactor
on Iran's Gulf coast, mothballed for several years.
Work on two reactors, each capable of generating 1,300 MW, began in
1974 in Bushehr, about 750 kilometers south of Teheran, with the help
of two German firms. Work was halted by the fall of the Shah of Iran
and U.S. pressure on Germany to halt their work. The sites were also
bomb damaged during the 1980 -1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Mohammed Sadegh Ayatollahi, Iran's chief representative to the IAEA,
said about 85 percent of the construction and more than half of the
equipment installation at the first unit of the plant was complete. The
second unit remains half constructed.
The Russian contract now would finish the first unit at a cost of
$800 million, he said.
During a U.S.-Russian summit in Washington last September, Russian
President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged a private commitment to end arms
sales to Iran. Russia has sold aircraft, tanks and two diesel-powered
submarines to Iran in recent years.
But Ayatollahi rejected all claims of any clandestine Iranian
nuclear weapons program. He also indicated that continued U.S.
objections to Teheran receiving nuclear technology for peaceful
purposes may actually violate the NPT.
Some reports have suggested that the United States has put pressure
on Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic to forego deals with the
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) on the delivery of components
to its civilian nuclear program.
In exchange for renouncing weapons programs, the NPT backs
international cooperation between treaty signatories, particularly the
developing countries, and the benefits of peaceful applications of
Teheran's official news agency IRNA, has described the Times report
as "a dramatic, though not unusual, distortion of facts".
"Those American and Israeli officials who used the Times to
sublimate their mischievous political agenda know very well that Iran
does not, and will not, in light of its own national interest, engage
in a nuclear weapon program," it said.
"By spreading such baseless news," IRNA quoted AEOI spokesman Ali
Shirzadian as saying, "The U.S. media is desperately trying to divert
international opinion from the illicit nuclear ventures of the Zionist
"The U.S. motive in raising the imaginary claim of Iran's pursuit
for nuclear weapons is to create grounds for mega arms sales to
countries of the region."
IRNA also quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi
as reiterating Teheran's opposition to any proliferation of nuclear and
chemical weapons and said Iran supported a nuclear-free zone in the
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