Iran nuke program censured

NY Times:

One day after the director general of the United Nations nuclear watchdog castigated Iran for blocking inquiries into its nuclear program, the organization’s governing body voted on Friday to censure the country and demanded that it freeze operations “immediately” at a once-secret uranium enrichment plant. The panel also expressed “serious concern” about potential military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.

The censure resolution, which passed 25-3, came after Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic energy Agency, declared in unusually blunt language on Thursday that Iran had stonewalled investigators about evidence that the country had worked on nuclear weapons design, and that his efforts to reveal the truth had “effectively reached a dead end.”

Dr. ElBaradei is preparing to leave office next week after 12 years at the head of the agency. His remarks refocused attention on Iran’s suspected work on weapons design at a moment when the West is debating how to respond after Tehran backed away from a commitment it made in early October to temporarily send much of its nuclear fuel abroad.

The censure resolution on Friday was the first by the governing body in almost four years.

While 6 of the governing body’s 35 nations abstained, and one was absent, the resolution had unusual backing by Russia and China, broadening the message of international displeasure with Iran that is frequently voiced in the West. But it was not immediately clear whether Moscow and Beijing would go further and support the expansion of sanctions that the Obama administration may promote.

The resolution centered on a uranium enrichment plant that Iran secretly built on an Iranian Revolutionary Guards base near the city of Qum. Until two months ago, Iran had failed to tell the atomic agency about the plant. Iran later said that it had kept the construction secret because it feared that its known nuclear plants could be bombed.

The resolution Friday urged Iran “to comply fully and without delay” with previous United Nations Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program and to “meet the requirements of the board of governors, including by suspending immediately construction at Qum.”

It also urged Iran to clarify the purpose of the enrichment plant and provide a chronology of its design and construction.

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Israeli officials, meanwhile, have said that they will not consider taking military action until Mr. Obama’s deadline runs out, leaving hanging the suggestion — maybe the bluff — that they are preparing for that possibility in 2010.

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Obama's deadline is the end of the year which corresponds with Isrel's anticipated completion of its Iron Dome anti missile system which would be used to defend the country against the smaller missiles from Lebanon and Gaza. Its main missile defense system against missiles from Iran is already largely in place.

It is still too early to tell whether the patience of everyone outside of Iran has been exhausted. There are still Iran allies in South America that will attempt to help Iran evade the potential sanctions. Venezuela and Ecuador in particular have ageed to launder money for the religious bigots of Iran.

Venezuela has also offered to supply gas to Iran, but it is not clear they have the excess capacity to do so. Recently Venezuela has imported gas to meet demand. It could be that Chavez would act as a middle man for the purchase of fuel.

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