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“Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone”


Odd, don’t you think, that members of the International Atomic Energy Agency could have adopted more than one resolution during Friday’s (the 24th) closing session of its 48th General Conference in Vienna, and now it’s already four days later, the morning of Tuesday, the 28th, in fact, but none of the texts of these resolutions has been posted to the IAEA’s website yet? (If you don’t believe me, see Resolutions.)

I mean, it’s not as if some of the issues covered by these resolutions haven’t been in the news of late. Very, very much in the news, as a matter of fact.

Take one of the really Big Issues that the so-called international community has had its collective nose rubbed in during the month of September, 2004—the Iranian nuclear program, and the rapidly increasing weight of the Government of Iran throughout the Middle East, thanks in no small measure to the American-made catastrophe of a criminal war and occupation of the country lying to Iran’s west.

In one of the resolutions adopted last Friday (to judge by a blurb posted elsewhere on the IAEA’s website), the “General Conference called upon all States in the Middle East region to take measures, including confidence-building and verification measures, aimed at establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. It requested the IAEA’s Director General to continue working with the region’s States to facilitate the early application of full-scope Agency safeguards to all nuclear activities in the region relevant to preparing model agreements, as a step towards establishing an NWFZ [Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone].” (“States Support Measures to Strengthen IAEA Safeguards,” Sept. 24.)

The IAEA’s “Please check back later” in place of the actual text of this resolution is of particular interest in the context of the current threats—real or propagandistic—that the Americans and the Israelis are constantly making towards the Government of Iran. When I quoted from this particular resolution of September 24 yesterday (“Israeli Nuclear Capabilities and Threat” II), where it affirmed the “urgent need for all states in the Middle East to forthwith accept the application of full-scope agency safeguards to all their nuclear activities…as a step in enhancing peace and security in the context of the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone,” I was forced to draw this quote from an Agence France Press report of September 24. (Michael Adler, “UN atomic agency calls for nuclear-free zone in Middle East, North Korea.”) But the actual resolution itself is still nowhere to be found.

Odd, again, because the “furtherance of the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region” has most recently been affirmed by no less a figure in the international panorama than the UN Secretary-General himself (SG/SM/9486 IAEA1361, Sept. 20).

What is more, Associated Press reports from Vienna that, after the resolution was adopted, “close to a dozen Arab nations bitterly criticized Israel, calling it the only nuclear threat in the region and demanding that it be forced to throw open its programs to agency perusal and controls. The Israeli delegation walked out during their speeches.” And a statement signed by all 22 members of the League of Arab States and entered into the official record of the IAEA’s 48th General Conference on Friday pointedly complained that “Israel continues to defy the international community…exposing the region to nuclear risks and threatening peace.” (George Jahn, “Nuclear watchdog agency demands North Korea scrap weapons program,” Sept. 24.)

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York City on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi argued that “‘legitimate disarmament’ must be nondiscriminatory”—a “jab,” AP reminds us, “directed at Israel, the Middle East’s only nuclear power.” “While we insist on our right to technology for peaceful purposes, we have left, and will leave, no stone unturned in order to provide assurances of our peaceful intentions,” in Kharrazi’s words. But “prevailing world realities illustrate that unbridled militarism and blind terrorism are mutually reinforcing,” and “brute and unsanctioned military force to achieve some political goals” undermines the peace and security of all peoples and states.—Not exactly a screaming, wild-eyed assessment of the risks to the co-mingled realms of peace and security, disarmament, the rule of law and world order. (Tarek el-Tablawy, “Iranian foreign minister urges nondiscriminatory approach to disarmament in region,” AP, Sept. 24.)

Now. As best I can tell as of the moment (note this morning’s date and time), not only has the IAEA failed to get around to archiving any of this material yet. But this single phrase—nuclear-weapon-free zone—drawn directly from the text of the IAEA’s own resolution on Friday, the 24th, has received but two mentions-in-passing within the voluminous coverage the mainstream English-language news media have devoted to the alleged Iranian nuclear “ambitions,” and the Americans’ and Israelis’ fears that these “ambitions” include nuclear weapons: Both the Los Angeles Times and Newsday mentioned the phrase nuclear-weapon-free zone in tiny little blurbs on Saturday, September 25. (See below, where I’ll post copies of them.)

Would anyone care to advance an hypothesis as to why this notion of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East has been greeted, once again, and for the countless time, with near silence by the collective news media of the one state that drove the issue of the Iranian nuclear program onto their front pages and daily newscasts in the first place?

Postscript. Please do check out Lutz Widmaier’s image of the many-headed nuclear hydra—a flourishing nuclear weed, to be faithful to the piece—archived by the New York Times. I don’t what know what Widmaier calls this work. But I think it’s a safe bet that, in neither the artist’s mind nor that of the groupthinkers at the New York Times, the Middle East states’ repeated calls (exclusive of one state) for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region have entered the record as an effort to reduce the risks that nuclear weapons pose to this part of the world. Nor for that matter are the decades of refusal by the Americans and the Israelis to so much as countenance disarmament questions the main trunk from which all of the other proliferation risks have sprouted. Instead, it’s the Iranians. The Iraqis. The Libyans. The Syrians. The North Koreans. The Whatevers.

Iran’s Plans for Nuclear Fuel Widen Global Rift Over Technology,” Craig S. Smith, New York Times, September 23, 2004
U.S. Targets Iran’ Influence in Iraq,” Robin Wright and Justin Blum, Washington Post, September 25, 2004
What Can and Can’t Be Done About North Korea and Iran,” David E. Sanger, New York Times, September 26, 2004

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, IAEA, September 1, 2004
Resolution GOV/2004/79, IAEA Board of Governors, September 18, 2004

Iran’s Dire Threat (It might be able to defend itself),” Edward S. Herman, Z Magazine, October, 2004

“Israeli Nuclear Capabilities and Threat” I, ZNet Blogs, September 4
“Israeli Nuclear Capabilities and Threat” II, ZNet Blogs, September 27

FYA (“For your archives”): (A) Copies of the two mainstream, English-language news media reports to have so much as mentioned the phrase “nuclear-weapon-free zone” (or close variations thereof) in the context of the Middle East since last Friday’s closing session of the 48th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.—Makes me feel a lot more secure to know that the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the Middle East is ranked so highly among the Americans that every time somebody from the Middle East raises the issue, they and their prodigious news media flush it right down the toilet, with nary a peep of authentic concern. (B) Copies of several of the articles referenced above. Since the links to them may not work for you, I’m depositing them here.

(A)

Los Angeles Times
September 25, 2004 Saturday
SECTION: MAIN NEWS; Foreign Desk; Part A; Pg. 11
HEADLINE: IN BRIEF / AUSTRIA;
Atomic Agency Focuses on N. Korea, Mideast
BYLINE: From Times Wire Reports

The International Atomic Energy Agency demanded that North Korea scrap its nuclear weapons program and urged the country to allow inspections.

In a separate resolution, the 137-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency called for the Middle East to become a nuclear-weapons-free zone. That resolution was seen as obliquely critical of Israel.

The conference has no authority to enforce resolutions.

Newsday (New York)
September 25, 2004 Saturday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A13
HEADLINE: WORLD & NATION BRIEFS
BYLINE: Compiled from news dispatches

…………

AGENCY DEMANDS END TO NUCLEAR ACTIVITY. The UN nuclear watchdog agency demanded Friday that North Korea end its nuclear weapons program and urged the country to allow agency inspectors to police the scrapping of its arms programs. In a separate resolution, the 137-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna also called for the Middle East to become a nuclear weapons-free zone.

(B)

The New York Times
September 23, 2004 Thursday
SECTION: Section A; Column 1; Foreign Desk; Pg. 5
HEADLINE: Iran’s Plans for Nuclear Fuel Widen Global Rift Over Technology
BYLINE: By CRAIG S. SMITH
DATELINE: PARIS, Sept. 22

Iran reiterated its right on Wednesday to produce uranium fuel for nuclear energy, seizing on a rift between nuclear-weapon nations that want to slow the spread of such technology and developing countries that see the technology as the entitlement of every signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

”This right is enshrined in the nonproliferation treaty and we will not give it up,” Iran’s president, Mohammad Khatami, told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran, according to Agence France-Presse. He promised full cooperation with the nonproliferation program if that right is internationally recognized.

Iran has been battling a coalition of countries, led by the United States, that want to stop it from developing its nuclear capabilities, fearing that it intends to use the technology to produce weapons. But the United States has met stiff resistance from some of the 35 countries on the board of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.

Those countries contend that the treaty has become a tool of nuclear states to impede nuclear development in nations they mistrust and has lost its original purpose. The original purpose was to encourage a system under which countries without nuclear weapons that signed the treaty were promised full support in developing other nuclear technologies in exchange for renouncing nuclear weapons.

The debate over Iran’s right to produce nuclear fuel, which could be diverted to make nuclear weapons, has widened the rift.

Many developing countries concede that Iran may be using loopholes in the treaty to develop nuclear weapons. But they argue that inequities in the nonproliferation program are undermining efforts to close those loopholes.

Iran has sought to exploit frustration among developing countries with the one-sided nature of compliance with the treaty.

”There is clearly a double standard,” Hossein Mousavian, an official at Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said last week in Vienna. He argued that Iran was being unfairly penalized while Israel, an I.A.E.A. member that is presumed to have nuclear weapons, had never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or accepted inspections.

Concerns about a double standard delayed an agency resolution on Iran last week. The agency’s board finally passed a resolution censuring Iran on Saturday. But several European and developing countries read statements making clear that the resolution, which called on Iran to suspend its nuclear fuel activities, was neither legally binding nor could be used as a precedent for similar actions against other members, according to a Western diplomat who attended the meeting.

Iran is evidently hoping that this division has given it room to maneuver before Nov. 25, when the agency will review Iran’s case and decide on further action. The United States is pushing for the agency to referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council for having enriched uranium without notifying the agency.

Iran voluntarily stopped enriching uranium last year as a gesture of good faith while the I.A.E.A. investigated its nuclear activities, which were largely hidden until 2002. But the country has insisted that the suspension is temporary.

On Tuesday, Iran said it had begun converting 40 tons of uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride gas, the feedstock for enriched uranium. While it has not yet resumed enrichment of the gas by feeding it into supersonic centrifuges, President Khatami has said it intends to do so.

The Washington Post
September 25, 2004 Saturday
Final Edition
SECTION: A Section; A17
HEADLINE: U.S. Targets Iran’s Influence in Iraq;
Officials Say Tehran Aids Shiite Parties
BYLINE: Robin Wright and Justin Blum, Washington Post Staff Writers

The Bush administration is exploring several steps aimed at containing Tehran’s growing influence in Iraq, according to U.S. officials, who say a split between the Pentagon and the State Department has paralyzed the administration’s ability to craft a long-term policy on Iran for three years.

As one measure, the United States has earmarked $40 million to help Iraq’s political parties mobilize — and, subtly, to counter Iran’s support for its allies in an emerging race to influence the outcome, U.S. officials said.

With the election in Iraq four months away, the administration has grown increasingly alarmed about the resources Tehran is pouring into Iraq’s already well-organized Shiite religious parties, which give them an edge over struggling moderate and nonsectarian parties, the officials said.

Over the past year, Iran has provided tens of millions of dollars and other material support to a range of Iraqi parties, including the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Islamic Dawa Party and rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army, U.S. officials say. The U.S. funds will in theory be available to all Iraqi parties, although the U.S. goal is to bolster the prospects of secular groups — on the premise that Iranian-backed parties are unlikely to turn to America for training or money, U.S. officials said.

In another diplomatic move aimed partly at Iran, the United States has been promoting a plan for a conference that would bring the United States together with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran, plus representatives of the European Union, the Group of Eight industrialized nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell lobbied for the conference at the United Nations this week, knowing it would provide a setting in which he and Iran’s foreign minister would participate, U.S. officials said. The meeting is tentatively planned for mid-November, after the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in Egypt.

“It’s not an attempt to open a channel to Iran. It’s a way to talk about how all Iraq’s neighbors and special friends and others can help the Iraqi government, and that includes Iran,” said a senior State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing diplomacy. “It’s about how to be responsible neighbors and one of our concerns is that Iran is not being a responsible neighbor. It’s a way of addressing one of the issues we have with Iran.”

The two moves follow a decision by the administration’s top foreign policy team this summer to initiate steps to prevent Iran from gaining a major behind-the-scenes role in shaping the Iraqi government due to be elected in January, U.S. officials said. But they also reflect U.S. recognition that attempts to keep Iran out of Iraq, given strong religious, geographic and ethnic ties dating back centuries, are likely to fail and could even backfire, U.S. officials said.

“The idea that you can prevent Iran from having influence or playing a role is totally misplaced, given connections between the clergy, geographic proximity, a long border, family connections, the large community of Shiites from Iran and all the mullahs who studied in the same schools under the same teachers,” said Shaul Bakhash of George Mason University, an expert on Iran and author of “The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution.”

The measures are an attempt to fill a policy vacuum created by divisive debates within the administration — mainly between the Defense and State departments. The internal splits have prevented agreement on a formal presidential directive on Iran that would clarify the administration’s overall, long-term approach, U.S. officials said.

The initial draft of the directive called for a carrot-and-stick combination of pressure and containment, with the prospect of dialogue on some issues of mutual concern, including Iraq and Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials familiar with the document. But some Pentagon policymakers wanted to insert tougher language calling for a change in Tehran’s government, the sources said.

The deadlock has left Washington with limited choices in developing a broader strategy and in trying to contain or punish Iran if it goes ahead with uranium enrichment in defiance of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The United States has been attempting to garner support among other nations for referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions, including an oil embargo, if Iran does not meet demands that it end all nuclear activities that could be used to develop weapons. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is aimed at energy production.

The realities of today’s oil market, however, make any type of embargo unlikely, if not impossible, say oil analysts.

An international embargo on Iranian oil could jack up the price of oil from the current price, now approaching $50 a barrel, to about $80 per barrel, said Robert E. Ebel, chairman of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In prices adjusted for inflation, that would be higher than when oil prices peaked in 1981.

Worldwide oil production is near capacity and demand has been increasing, especially in China and India, Ebel said. “The Security Council would not accept an oil embargo on Iran, particularly when it’s unlikely Iraqi oil will come on the market in a measurable way anytime soon,” added Ray Takeyh, a Council on Foreign Relations specialist on Iran.

Iran produces an average of 3.9 million barrels of crude oil a day, about 5 percent of world production, the Energy Department said. It exports about 2.6 million barrels per day. Even trying to ban foreign oil companies’ investments in Iran would drive up prices, analysts said.

“Assuming a consensus on sanctions of any kind — and I don’t assume that — then what you’re left with are secondary, watered-down sanctions of limited impact on Iran’s economic viability, such as on access to lending institutions, certain technologies and travel by diplomats,” Takeyh added. “And those types of sanctions aren’t going to discourage a serious proliferator, especially a country that believes nuclear weapons are essential for its survival.”

The New York Times
September 26, 2004 Sunday
Late Edition – Final
SECTION: Section 4; Column 1; Week in Review Desk; The World; Pg. 3
HEADLINE: What Can and Can’t Be Done About North Korea and Iran
BYLINE: By DAVID E. SANGER
DATELINE: WASHINGTON

FOR weeks now, while American television screens have been tuned to bombings and beheadings in Iraq, an alternate set of high-definition images from spy satellites have been popping up on the monitors at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The satellites are focused on North Korea and Iran, both of which have seen America’s preoccupation with Iraq as an opportunity to surge forward with their nuclear programs — and to pose a challenge to America and the rest of the world: What are you going to do about it? What can you do about it?

The challenge is so serious that the C.I.A. is circulating warnings that North Korea may conduct its first nuclear test before the presidential election. And last week the Iranians defied the International Atomic Energy Agency by saying they were resuming the enrichment of uranium, although they insist their project is intended only to produce electric power and is not, as the United States has charged, part of a bomb project.

In the first presidential debate on Thursday night, Mr. Bush is expected to argue anew that he is dedicated to disarming both countries through diplomacy rather than military force, and Mr. Kerry will probably repeat what he said Friday, that Mr. Bush ”allowed these dangers to mount on his presidential watch” by focusing on a far less potent threat, Saddam Hussein.

The reality is that America’s bargaining options are almost as limited as its military options. Despite two years of intensive diplomacy alongside Europeans and Asians, the allies have still not agreed on a unified strategy. And while both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry dismiss each other’s approach, neither has yet described an approach that even his own advisers think has much of a chance of yielding real, permanent disarmament.

There are some real proposals under discussion: one is to seek a ”grand bargain” in which North Korea would drop its nuclear arms program in return for security guarantees, energy and investments. Another, called ”selective engagement,” envisions offering Iran incentives along lines proposed by a bipartisan group led by Robert Gates, a former C.I.A. director, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser.

But Mr. Bush’s team has been deeply divided between those who want real negotiations to begin soon and those who would put their main hopes in undermining the regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang.

For its part, Mr. Kerry’s team does not want to lay its cards on the table, for fear, in the words of one Democrat involved in the campaign, ”of opening Kerry up to the Bush charge that he’d negotiate America’s security with half-crazed nuclear dictators,” even if that is what bad choices may require.

The result is that election-year politics and nuclear politics have combined to obscure everyone’s intent even as the air of crisis intensifies. On Wednesday the Japanese sent Aegis destroyers into the Sea of Japan and spy planes along the North Korean coast because satellites picked up evidence of activity around the North’s missile bases, suggesting that the country may be about to send a missile on a flight near Japan’s teeming cities, as it did in 1998.

But that isn’t the biggest worry about North Korea. By now, it may have had enough time to build six or eight weapons. Will it test one to show it is a power to be reckoned with? That’s a strategy that worked for Pakistan in 1998.

Or maybe, just maybe, the excitement is for show. It may just be a bluff ”because they know we’re watching for an October surprise, Kim Jong Il-style,” a senior American intelligence official said, referring to the unpredictable North Korean leader.

Iran is farther away from having a nuclear arsenal; it is still producing the ingredients. One senior administration official said last week that ”we have some time” to address the question. But maybe not that much: the Israelis have begun to make clear that when they think Iran has passed some ”red line,” they may have to consider preemptive action of the kind they took against an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. That leaves Washington caught between Israel’s fears and Europe’s insistence on avoiding confrontation at all costs.

The Iranians have played this situation skillfully. American intelligence officials say they have scattered their nuclear program in smaller laboratories in major cities, making it impossible for Israel to strike it without killing civilians. ”They also see leverage over Europe,” says Robert Einhorn, a nuclear scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noting that past sanctions involving European countries, which have strong oil and other trading interests with Iran, have been ”mild and short-lived.”

Mr. Kerry sailed past that problem when he declared on Friday that as president, ”I will make it clear to Iran that we will lead an international effort to impose tough sanctions if they do not permanently suspend their uranium enrichment program” and prove they are not building weapons.

But whether he or Mr. Bush is the one in the Oval Office on Jan. 20, the president will face another problem: It’s not just the mullahs who want Iran to have a nuclear option. Many of Iran’s reformers want one too. For all of them, it’s about not looking like a weakling in a neighborhood of nuclear nations: Pakistan, India, China and Russia. And now the world’s biggest nuclear power is trying to put together secular democracies next door, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Facing that geography, it is possible that Iran can’t be talked out of the bomb — though it might settle for control over the ”nuclear fuel cycle,” the process of making fuel that is suitable for generating electric power. With more enrichment, the same fuel could also be used for a bomb.

”This right is enshrined in the nonproliferation treaty and we will not give it up,” Iran’s president, Mohammad Khatami, told reporters in Teheran last week. He had a point, and that is why President Bush and Senator Kerry have called for re-writing the fundamental bargain now in force between nuclear and non-nuclear states. Under different plans, both candidates would deny non-nuclear nations the right to build their own fuel enrichment facilities, substituting a guarantee of a supply of fuel and shipment of the waste out of the country.

Perhaps the answer is ”selective engagement,” in which the United States would gradually reach out to Iran. But Mr. Bush’s foreign policy aides say Iran has been rejecting any overtures.

Still, in Iran’s case, whoever is president next year will have time to figure this out. In North Korea’s case, time may have expired. By most intelligence estimates, the North has enough plutonium to make four to six weapons, and many experts — in both the Bush and Kerry camps — believe it will never give up everything. A bomb, or the potential to build one, is the only card a starving, bankrupt state like North Korea has to play, the theory goes. So they are looking for guarantees. And America is insisting on verifying that every bit of nuclear material has left the North before benefits flow.

MR. BUSH has said he would not ”tolerate” a nuclear North, but in an interview last month he declined to define what tolerate means. Does it indicate he is willing to do whatever it takes to disarm the North, as the Iraq example suggests, or does it mean he will not condone the North becoming a nuclear power? He won’t say.

Mr. Kerry vowed on Friday that ”I will talk directly to the North Koreans to get a verifiable agreement that will eliminate their nuclear weapons program completely and irreversibly.” A noble goal, one that Bill Clinton attempted in 1994, before settling for a ”nuclear freeze” that the North has now terminated. Perhaps North Korea would take a grand bargain, but its leaders have declared that they cannot negotiate with President Bush. No doubt Mr. Kim, an avid viewer of satellite television, will be tuned to the debates for any hint that Mr. Kerry would give him a better deal.

Agence France Presse — English
September 24, 2004 Friday 4:13 PM GMT
HEADLINE: UN atomic agency calls for nuclear-free Middle East, North Korea
BYLINE: Michael Adler
DATELINE: VIENNA Sept 24

The United Nations atomic agency called Friday for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East and for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

It was expected to pass later Friday a resolution on fighting “nuclear and radiological terrorism”.

On the last day of its week-long annual conference, the 137-nation International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution that “affirms the urgent need for all states in the Middle East to forthwith accept the application of full-scope agency safeguards to all their nuclear activities … as a step in enchancing peace and security in the context of the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone”.

The IAEA’s call for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, which was adopted by consensus, did not name Israel specifically but was clearly aimed at the Jewish state, which is believed to be the only nation in the region with atomic weapons.

The IAEA also called on North Korea “to completely dismantle any nuclear weapons program” and to allow international inspectors to return to monitor nuclear activities there, after they were kicked out of the country in December 2002.

North Korea, which says it has nuclear weapons, withdrew in January 2003 from the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which sets the safeguards the IAEA is meant to enforce.

Chang-Beom Cho, South Korea’s ambassador to the IAEA, said North Korea “must give up all its nuclear weapons and related programs, including its uranium enrichment program in a thorough and transparent manner … so that this issue does not arise again in the future”.

The IAEA’s demand for a nuclear-free Middle East did not specifically mention Israel, which neither confirms nor denies that it has atomic weapons and is the only state in the region which has not signed the NPT.

Israel, which is an IAEA member, is believed to have up to 200 nuclear weapons.

Israel was part of the consensus in favour of the resolution, which was passed in time for the Israeli delegation to leave for the sundown start of the Jewish Yom Kippur festival, the holiest day in the Jewish year.

But the head of the Israeli atomic energy commission, Gideon Frank, reminded the IAEA conference of Israel’s insistance that there must be an overall peace agreement in the Middle East before any nuclear-free zone could be created and that “no progress compromising national security is viable”.

But Egypt’s IAEA ambassador, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, said the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East was “something that cannot wait until there is a just and comprehensive peace but it is the very axis (of such a peace)”.

The resolution was part of a compromise package worked out under US moderation. Israel agreed to support the call for a nuclear-free Middle East in return for an Arab proposal to discuss “Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat” being put off until next years’s IAEA general conference.

This year’s IAEA conference saw a showdown on Tuesday between the UN watchdog and Iran, which defied an IAEA ultimatum to immediately halt all uranium enrichment activities.

The United States has accused Tehran of engaging in an “unrelenting push toward nuclear weapons capability”.

The IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors had last week adopted a resolution for Iran to “immediately” suspend all parts of the nuclear fuel cycle.

But Iranian atomic energy chief Reza Aghazadeh said this week that Tehran had begun the conversion of substantial amounts of uranium ore into the gas needed to enrich uranium, which makes nuclear fuel for reactors but can also be used to produce the explosive core of atomic bombs.

The IAEA has set a deadline of November 25, when its board of governors will next meet, for a definitive review of Iran’s nuclear program. Washington is pushing for Iran to be sent before the UN Security Council, which could impose punishing sanctions.

Still to be passed before the end of the IAEA conference Friday was a resolution on fighting “nuclear and radiological terrorism”.

That resolution continues on from others adopted by the IAEA since the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

The aim was to “provide advice and training to (IAEA) member states on where their vulnerabilities are, how to beef up security on their borders and how to stop illicit trafficking”, IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said.

In other developments at the conference, the IAEA elected a new board of governors and cleared the way for Chad, Mauritania and Togo to join, bringing the watchdog’s members to 140.

Associated Press Worldstream
September 24, 2004 Friday
HEADLINE: Nuclear watchdog agency demands North Korea scrap weapons program
BYLINE: GEORGE JAHN; Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: VIENNA, Austria

A 137-nation meeting of the atomic watchdog agency demanded that North Korea renounce nuclear weapons ambitions and urged it to allow agency inspectors to police the scrapping of linked arms programs.

In a separate resolution, the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency also called for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East – a text that was obliquely critical of Israel, considered the only country in the region with fully developed nuclear arms.

The conference has no authority to enforce the resolutions, issued Friday. Still, the two texts reflected international concerns about two potential regional flash points.

North Korea is threatening to build nuclear weapons, while in the Middle East, Israel’s nuclear capacities are feared by Muslim nations and Iran is suspected of trying to build such weapons, ringing alarm bells in the Jewish state

North Korea severed its ties with the agency in 2002, leaving the IAEA with no oversight of the country. The resolution reflected international concern over Pyongyang’s threats to build nuclear weapons and attempts to use that as a bargaining chip at six-party talks designed to wrest concessions from the United States and other nations.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the agency’s board last week that the nuclear standoff with North Korea posed a “serious challenge” to the global effort to control the spread of atomic weaponry.

ElBaradei said that, with his agency shut out of North Korea since December 2002, it cannot say whether the country has diverted sensitive nuclear material to other nations or groups looking to build a bomb.

The crisis began two years ago when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted having a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 agreement. The IAEA declared North Korea in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in February 2003.

The United States and its allies have suspended oil shipments to the isolated communist country. North Korea in turn expelled IAEA inspectors, disabled the agency’s monitoring cameras, withdrew from the global nuclear arms-control treaty and said it would reactivate its main nuclear complex, frozen since 1994.

Six-party talks – between North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States – aimed at persuading North Korea to end its nuclear weapons development are on hold. Voicing its latest objection to resuming the talks, the North recently said it would not agree on a new date until South Korea fully discloses details of its recently revealed secret atomic experiments.

Friday’s resolution, adopted by consensus, urged the communist country to “completely dismantle any nuclear weapons program in a prompt, transparent, verifiable and irreversible manner.”

It said it “deplores” North Korea’s decision to break ties with the IAEA and proclaim itself no longer bound by the Nonproliferation Treaty, and called on it to again accept IAEA safeguards meant to oversee its return to peaceful uses of the atom.

Japanese delegate Yukio Takasu told the conference that North Korea “must immediately commit itself to dismantling” all its nuclear programs.

“The early peaceful resolution of the … (North Korean) nuclear issue is essential for securing peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” he said.

The Middle East resolution was accepted after hours of back-room negotiations. Muslim nations refrained from submitting a linked resolution condemning Israel’s purported “nuclear capacities and threat” in exchange for agreement to keep the issue on the agenda for next year’s meeting.

Still, in statements after the Middle East text was approved, close to a dozen Arab nations bitterly criticized Israel, calling it the only nuclear threat in the region and demanding that it be forced to throw open its programs to agency perusal and controls. The Israeli delegation walked out during their speeches.

“Israel continues to defy the international community … exposing the region to nuclear risks and threatening peace,” said a document submitted by the 22-nation League of Arab States for the formal conference records.

Associated Press Worldstream
September 24, 2004 Friday
HEADLINE: Iranian foreign minister urges nondiscriminatory approach to disarmament in region
BYLINE: TAREK EL-TABLAWY; Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: UNITED NATIONS

Iran’s foreign minister said Friday his country would “leave no stone unturned” in assuring the world that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful uses, but charged that “legitimate disarmament” must be nondiscriminatory – a jab directed at Israel, the Middle East’s only nuclear power.

Kamal Kharrazi told the U.N. General Assembly’s ministerial meeting that his country was the only victim of weapons of mass destruction in recent years.

As a result, “Iran feels very strongly about the absolute imperative collective and rule-based multilateral campaign to eradicate all these weapons and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons as an interim measure,” Kharrazi said.

Iran and Iraq fought a bloody war between 1980 and 1988 in which Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranian forces.

But Kharrazi, whose government has come under fire in recent weeks over questions about whether it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, said such disarmament efforts must be undertaken in a “nondiscriminatory manner.”

The comment was a reference to Israel, the only nation in the conflict-ridden Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons, although Israeli officials have refused to confirm this.

“While we insist on our right to technology for peace purposes, we have left, and will leave, no stone unturned in order to provide assurances of our peaceful intentions,” Kharrazi said.

Kharrazi said Iran has demonstrated its commitment to fighting terrorism through the arrest and extradition of “the greatest number of al-Qaida members apprehended by any single state to date.”

But, lashing out at the United States and Britain for the “illegal” war with Iraq, he said that while “many in Iran are joyous to see the murderer of their sons behind bars,” the toppling of Saddam Hussein was like “the fruit of the forbidden tree.”

He said that the use of “brute and unsanctioned military force to achieve some political goals, albeit desirable goals” undermines efforts to promote justice, freedom and equality.

“The prevailing world realities illustrate that unbridled militarism and blind terrorism are mutually reinforcing,” Kharrazi said.

Iran, which U.S. President George W. Bush dubbed as one of three “axis of evil” countries, opposed the war in Iraq. But U.S. officials have said that some of the insurgents or militants operating in the violence-gripped postwar Iraq entered through Iranian territory.

Also, the September 11 Commission report claimed Iran may have facilitated the 2001 attacks in the United States by providing eight to 10 al-Qaida hijackers with safe passage to and from terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Iran has rejected the claim, saying the men may have passed through the country illegally en route to Afghanistan.

Kharrazi said that U.N. efforts to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East have been “systematically obstructed by Israel’s intransigence and its rejection of all multilateral instruments, regrettably with impunity.”

He said all the countries in the region considered “Israel’s arsenal, including its weapons of mass destruction, combined with its policy and record of aggression and state terrorism, as the single greatest threat to regional and global peace and security.”

Meanwhile in Vienna, Austria, a 137-nation meeting of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, demanded that North Korea renounce its nuclear weapons program and passed a separate resolution calling for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

The text obliquely referred to Israel.

The IAEA’s governing board has said it would in November judge Iran’s compliance with demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program, and could then refer questions about Iran’s program to the U.N. Security Council. Iran has said such an ultimatum could lead it to restrict IAEA access to its facilities.

Also Friday, France’s foreign minister, Michel Barnier, told reporters that it was time for Iran to assure the world about its program, or face the possible of Security Council action.

“Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone”

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