US cautions UK against censuring Iran over N-program


The move reflects mounting frustration over Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA, which polices nuclear proliferation…reports Asian Lite News

The US has cautioned Britain against censuring Iran over its nuclear programme amid high tensions in the Middle East and with the presidential election in November, US media reported.

European powers, including Britain and France, are believed to be preparing a censuring resolution against Iran at next week’s meeting of the board of directors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The move reflects mounting frustration over Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA, which polices nuclear proliferation.

The Biden administration has asked other countries to abstain from the resolution and said it will do the same, the Wall Street Journal reported citing diplomats familiar with the matter.

The decision reflects the White House’s wish to avoid further escalation of tensions with Iran ahead of US presidential elections in November as well as fears that Iran may be more unstable than usual following recent clashes with Israel and the death in a helicopter crash last week of its president, Ebrahim Raisi.

British officials are understood to think Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced, and are deeply concerned about escalation.

The agency’s 35-member board of governors will gather for a quarterly meeting from June 3 to 7. Concern about Iran’s atomic ambitions have grown steadily since 2019 when Donald Trump pulled the US out of a deal offering sanctions relief in exchange for curbs to its nuclear programme.

Iran has been enriching uranium to 60 per cent purity for three years, it is believed. It needs roughly 90 per cent purity to build a weapon.

It has enough uranium to build three nuclear bombs if it was refined further, according to an IAEA yardstick. Joe Biden is keen not to ruffle Iran’s nuclear feathers ahead of a US election in November

Iran denies seeking a nuclear weapon and says all its activities are peaceful. The IAEA counters that no country has enriched to that level without going on to build a bomb.

A senior European diplomat told Reuters last week that the level of Iran’s violations was “unprecedented”.

“There is no slowing down of its programme and there is no real goodwill by Iran to cooperate with the IAEA,” the diplomat said. “All our indicators are flashing red.”

A rift between the US and the “E3” powers of Britain, France and Germany about how to respond has been growing for months.

In November 2022, they all backed an IAEA resolution censuring Iran, but the US cautioned the E3 against a repeat at the last quarterly meeting in March.

Mohammad Mokhber, who took over as acting president on Mr Raisi’s death, addressed parliament in Tehran for the first time on Monday.

Nasser Kanaani, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said Mr Raisi’s death had not changed Iran’s approach to getting US sanctions lifted.

Officials have been citing the US presidential election as a reason for the Biden administration’s reluctance.

But the main argument US officials make is to avoid giving Iran a pretext to respond by escalating its nuclear activities, as it has done in the past.

There have been complications in talks following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash earlier this month.

During talks aimed at improving Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA, Tehran told reporters it would not engage with it until Raisi’s successor is elected on June 28, two diplomats said.

Israel and Iran carried out direct strikes on each other for the first time last month, and Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in Gaza said Israeli tanks reached the centre of Rafah earlier today in a move that has sparked global condemnation.

Residents said Israeli forces pounded the city with airstrikes and tank fire, depsite international outcry over an attack on Sunday that sparked a blaze in a tent camp, killing at least 45 Palestinians, more than half of them children, women and the elderly.

Since that strike, at least 26 more people have been killed by Israeli fire in Rafah, officials in the enclave run by Hamas militants said.

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