Iran and U.S. Clash at UN Over Nuclear Nonproliferation

NEW YORK, New York, May 4, 2010 (ENS) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran clashed as more than 100 nations gathered at UN Headquarters Monday to review the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as they do every five years.

The last NPT review conference in 2005 was a failure, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the delegates, because it concluded without any substantive agreement. “This time, we can – and must – do better.”

“We have a choice,” said Ban, “to leave a legacy of fear and inaction… or to act with vision, courage and leadership. With the nuclear threat still real, “we need this regime as much as ever.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the NPT Review Conference. May 3, 2010. (Photo courtesy UN)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a campaign to raise $100 million over the next five years to broaden access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The funds are to expand support for projects sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, addressing energy and important humanitarian purposes, such as cancer treatment and fighting infectious diseases, food and water security, and the development of infrastructure for the safe, secure use of civil nuclear power. These efforts will be aimed to assist developing countries.

The United States has pledged $50 million to this effort and will work with others to meet the $100 million target by the opening of the next NPT Review Conference. Historically, the United States has been the single largest contributor to the IAEA’s technical cooperation programs.

Also in attendance was President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, whose authorities hold that the country’s work in the nuclear field is for peaceful purposes, while some countries contend it is driven by military ambitions.

Iran’s nuclear program has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Secretary-General Ban encouraged the Iranian leader to “engage constructively,” and to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA.

He encouraged Iran to accept an IAEA-backed proposal on fuel for a civilian nuclear research site in the capital, Tehran, in which Iranian low-enriched uranium would be shipped for further enrichment to Russia and then to France to be fabricated into fuel.

The other three parties to the talks – France, Russia and the United States – have all indicated their approval of the agreement, but Iran has yet to respond.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran at the NPT Review Conference. May 3, 2010. (Photo courtesy UN)

“Let me be clear,” said Ban, “the onus is on Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns of its program.”

In response, Ahmadinejad told the conference that his country has accepted the fuel exchange deal.

The Iranian leader objected that “certain nuclear-weapon states widely exploit” the Security Council and the IAEA. “This unjust practice, repeated over and over, has turned into a pattern.”

He said that to date, no non-nuclear-weapon state “has ever been able to exercise their inalienable and legal rights for peaceful use of nuclear energy without facing pressures and threats.”

Countries with nuclear weapons have equated nuclear arms with nuclear energy, which Ahmadinejad characterized as “one of the gravest injustices” committed by these nations.

“The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity rather than a weapon for defense,” he stated. “The possession of nuclear bombs is not a source of pride; it is rather disgusting and shameful. And even more shameful is the threat to use or to use such weapons, which is not even comparable to any crime committed throughout the history.”

In her opening remarks, Secretary Clinton stressed the Obama administration’s commitment “to the treaty’s core bargain: states without nuclear weapons promise not to acquire them, states with nuclear weapons work towards eliminating them, and all enjoy access to the peaceful uses of the atom.”

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told delegates that the agency is working to resolve safeguards implementation issues in three states, including Iran.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (Photo courtesy Govt. of Canada)

“In the case of Iran, the agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material, but remains unable to confirm that all nuclear material is in peaceful activities because Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation.”

“I continue to request Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and relevant resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council, and to clarify activities with a possible military dimension,” Amano said.

With Syria, the agency has not been able to make progress towards resolving questions related to the nature of the Dair Alzour site destroyed by Israel and other locations. Syria has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008 in this regard, said Amano.

North Korea has not allowed the agency to implement safeguards since 2002 and, therefore, the agency cannot draw any safeguards conclusion, Amano said. In April 2009, North Korea ceased all cooperation with the IAEA in the implementation of the ad hoc monitoring and verification arrangement agreed to under the Six-Party Talks process.

Ban said it is “crucial” to make strides towards cementing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Currently, there are five such zones: Latin America and the Caribbean; the South Pacific; Southeast Asia; Central Asia; and Africa.

“They build confidence that can lead to progress in other areas,” Ban stressed.

Secretary Clinton announced that the Obama administration will seek U.S. Senate ratification of several Protocols to the Africa Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, and the South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Rarotonga.

These treaties complement the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by prohibiting the development or testing of nuclear weapons within their respective geographic zones. Zone parties are prohibited from stationing nuclear weapons within their territories.

The 190 states that are party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty aim to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, foster nuclear energy’s peaceful uses and speed nuclear disarmament.

Under the treaty, the International Atmoic Energy Agency, IAEA, is mandated to verify that nuclear materials and technologies are not used to make nuclear weapons, as well as to help increase access to the benefits of peaceful nuclear technologies.

In the future, the IAEA expects that its member states will require increasing support in introducing nuclear power, improving human health, enhancing food safety and security and sustainably managing natural resources.

Every five years since 1970, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is reviewed by its States Parties to be assured that these aims are being realized. This current review will continue through May 28.

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