Iran defiant as U.N. nuclear talks fail (REUTERS) By Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi VIENNA/TEHRAN 02/22/12 1:57pm EST)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog ended its latest mission to
Iran after talks on Tehran´s suspected secret atomic weapons research
failed, a setback likely to increase the risk of confrontation with
In a defiant response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said
Iran´s nuclear policies would not change despite mounting
international pressure against what the West says are Iran´s plans to
obtain nuclear bombs.
"With God´s help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran´s
nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously," he said on
state television. "Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear
no fruit. No obstacles can stop Iran´s nuclear work."
As sanctions mount, ordinary Iranians are suffering from the effects
of soaring prices and a collapsing currency. Several Iranian nuclear
scientists have been killed over the past two years in bomb attacks
that Tehran has blamed on its arch-adversary Israel.
In response, Iran has issued a series of statements asserting its
right to self-defense and threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz,
a vital oil tanker route.
The collapse of the nuclear talks came as Iran seems increasingly
isolated, with some experts seeing the Islamic republic´s mounting
defiance in response to sanctions against its oil industry and
financial institutions as evidence that it is in no mood to
compromise with the West.
Elections on March 2 are expected to be won by supporters of
Khamenei, an implacable enemy of the West.
The failure of the two-day visit by the International Atomic Energy
Agency could now hamper any resumption of wider nuclear negotiations
between Iran and six world powers as the sense grows that Tehran
feels it is being backed into a corner.
In the view of some analysts, the Iranians may be trying to keep
their opponents guessing as to their capabilities, a diplomatic
strategy that has served them well in the past.
"But they may be overdoing the smoke and mirrors and as a result
leaving themselves more vulnerable," said professor Rosemary Hollis
of London´s City University.
A team from the IAEA had hoped to inspect a site at Parchin,
southeast of Tehran, where the agency believes there is a facility to
"During both the first and second round of discussions, the agency
team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not
grant permission for this visit to take place," the Vienna-based IAEA
said in a statement.
"It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit
Parchin. We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was
reached," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
A Western official added: "We think that if Iran has nothing to hide
why do they behave in that way?"
"It is another missed opportunity," French Deputy Foreign Ministry
spokesman Romain Nadal said. "This refusal to cooperate adds to the
recent statements made by Iranian officials welcoming the progress of
their nuclear activities."
Iranian analyst Mohammad Marandi said providing the West with any
more access than necessary to nuclear sites would be a sign of
"Under the current conditions it is not in Iran´s interest to
cooperate more than is necessary because the West is waging a war
against the Iranian nation," he told Reuters.
Earlier, Iran´s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Tehran
expected to hold more talks with the U.N. agency, but Amano´s
spokeswoman said no further meetings were planned.
Iran rejects accusations that its nuclear programme is a covert bid
to develop a nuclear weapons capability, saying it is seeking to
produce only electricity.
But its refusal to curb sensitive atomic activities which can have
both civilian and military purposes, and its record of years of
nuclear secrecy has drawn increasingly tough U.N. and separate U.S.
and European measures.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out using force against
Iran if they conclude that diplomacy and sanctions will not stop it
from developing a nuclear bomb.
"This was only to be expected, given Iran´s evasions," a senior
Israeli official said.
The failure of the IAEA´s mission may increase the chances of a
strike by Israel on Iran, some analysts believe.
But this would be "catastrophic for the region and for the whole
system of international relations," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Gennady Gatilov said.
STILL TIME FOR DIPLOMACY?
An IAEA report in November suggested Iran had pursued military
nuclear technology and helped precipitate the latest sanctions by the
European Union and United States.
One key finding was information that Iran had built a large
containment chamber at Parchin to conduct high-explosives tests. The
U.N. agency said there were "strong indicators of possible weapon
The IAEA said intensive efforts had been made to reach agreement on a
document "facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues" in
connection with Iran´s nuclear programme.
"Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document," it said
in an unusually blunt statement on Wednesday.
The IAEA mission´s failure may reduce the chance of any resumption of
wider nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six world powers -
the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
The West last week expressed some optimism at the prospect of new
talks, particularly after Iran sent a letter to EU foreign policy
chief Catherine Ashton promising to bring "new initiatives", without
But the United States and its allies may be reluctant if they feel
that the Islamic state is unlikely to engage in substantive
discussions about its nuclear activities.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams, John Irish and William
Maclean; writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Janet McBride) (©
Thomson Reuters 2012. 02/22/12)
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