SA disses Iran nuke claims

2011-11-12 16:53

The fight to determine whether Iran is building a nuclear bomb or not has become another site of dispute between Western and emerging countries, with South Africa siding with the latter.

In its report on Iran this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provided details suggesting Iran is developing nuclear capabilities for military purposes.

It said Iran may be developing technology and ingredients to build a nuclear bomb, but the Middle Eastern country insists it is using its nuclear research only for domestic purposes like cancer treatment.

But there is no smoking gun.

A source who has studied the report said: “They have certain bits of evidence but there is no evidence that says it could lead to nuclear weapons for military purposes.”

Iran has enriched its ura­­­nium, used in cancer treatment, because a partial UN embargo prohibits it from  obtaining nuclear technology from other countries.

Western countries, however, believe that, on the sly, it is continuing to develop the nuclear bomb it  abandoned in 2002 due to international pressure.

South Africa, represented ­by ambassador Abdul Minty, is a permanent member of the IAEA board which is set to meet in Vienna, Austria, next week about the latest report on Iran. South Africa, along with Russia and China, are worried that Iran’s nuclear capabilities are overstated and the report serves as a reason to invade Iran. The analogy used is the way the US invaded Iraq based on non-existing “weapons of mass destruction”.

According to South African officials, the Iranian situation is worrying “because no one wants a nucleared Iran”.

A senior government official told City Press: “But there is no ­verifiable evidence that says Iran wants to build a bomb. The director-­general of the IAEA was asked to give his best guess. You can’t give your best guesses, South Africa works for verification. But that doesn’t mean what you can’t verify doesn’t exist.”

According to the official, Iran has the ingredients to make a nuclear bomb, just like Japan, Germany and  Sweden.

But, he says, Iran’s ongoing battle with the US makes it a target for scrutiny.

“The US has decided Iran is bad, now they are being targeted,” the source said.

The IAEA board appointed Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the US to investigate Iran’s nuclear capabilities and report to the board.

The recent report includes an annexure with confidential information from Iran which makes countries like Russia and China uncomfortable.

“If a government confides in you, you shouldn’t go and share it with everyone,” the source said.

Now this group, called EU3+3, is divided, given Russia and China’s resistance to the report.

South Africa is a permanent member of the board as the most advanced African country in terms of nuclear issues, while Egypt, Tanzania and Niger are currently serving two year terms.

A European diplomat told City Press that Iran’s reluctance to co-operate with the EU3+3 creates suspicion that the Middle Eastern country has something to hide.

“[There are] plenty of references throughout the report to Iran being evasive in its responses and not fully cooperating with the IAEA, specifically on development towards a nuclear explosive device,” he said.

The European countries and the US want to use the report to compel the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran.

Minty declined to comment this week on the latest report.

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