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UN nuclear chief hopes for Iran agreement

UN nuclear chief hopes for Iran agreement

The U.N. nuclear agency's new chief said Friday he hopes agreement will be reached with Iran on an international proposal to export most of the material it would need to make nuclear weapons.
Calling Iran's nuclear program the "number one issue" for the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano said he is acting as an intermediary on the proposal, following the work of his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei.
Amano provided no details on talks with Iran on the plan, under which the country would quickly ship out most of its stock of enriched uranium, then wait up to a year for its return in the form of fuel rods for its Tehran research reactor.
For months, Iranian officials have criticized the plan, which was drawn up in October and backed by most of the world's major powers. Iran appeared to agree in principle at the time, but expressed displeasure with it almost immediately afterward.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency is headquartered, said last week that Iran has now told the agency it wants an alternative plan without the tight timetable for shipping out most of its enriched uranium.
Amano told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos that there is no agreement on the fuel proposal for the Tehran reactor.
"I hope the agreement will be reached, and I continue to work as an intermediary," he said.
Amano said the international community's confidence in Iran's nuclear program _ which Tehran insists is purely peaceful _ was lost after the discovery of secret activities over 20 years that were not disclosed to the IAEA, as required.
Iranian acceptance of the uranium proposal, he said, "will help to increase the confidence."
The panel in Davos also examined the challenge posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the difficulties in trying to reach U.S. President Barack Obama's goal of a nuclear-free world, and this year's crowded nuclear agenda, including a conference on nuclear security in Washington in April and the five-year review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in May.
The treaty requires signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers to move toward nuclear disarmament. States without nuclear weapons are guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology to produce nuclear power.
The last review conference in 2005 failed to reach any agreement but Amano was more optimistic about this year's session.
"My expectation ... is that the NPT review conference will agree something," he said, declining to speculate on the outcome.
He said addressing the issue of establishing a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East at the conference "is extremely important" and could decide the outcome.
Nuclear expert Graham Allison, a leading U.S. national security analyst who is now at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said North Korea now has 10 bombs worth of plutonium.
Iran has 4,000 centrifuges spinning, produces six pounds of low-enriched uranium every day, and has "two bombs worth" of low-enriched uranium, he said.
"And Pakistan, if we want to take the most troublesome, has tripled its arsenal of nuclear weapons and materials over the last eight years while it's become an increasingly less stable state," Allison said.
Both Allison and former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, who now co-chairs the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation, praised Obama's commitment to move toward a nuclear weapons-free world.
But they stressed the nuclear risks today _ of nuclear terrorism, proliferation and groups diverting low-enriched uranium from peaceful nuclear projects.
"It's sheer dumb luck that we haven't had a nuclear catastrophe," Evans said.


Updated : 2021-04-13 16:07 GMT+08:00