For 50 years the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has worked to prevent unchecked global nuclear proliferation. At this week’s annual general assembly of 140 member nations the organisation faces its toughest challenge yet; Iran. The IAEA’s boss Mohammed el-Baradei, said today he remained optimistic the crisis could be resolved if everyone agreed to talk.
Iran’s President Ahmedinjad has taken the toughest of lines along with the rest of the Iranian leadership. The clock is ticking on US-led demands for sanctions or worse against Iran. Washington and others claim Tehran is bidding to build nuclear bombs under a veil of a civilian electrical generation programme.
UN Security Council members have until now been relatively united in their proposals to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, but Russia and China are loath to use sanctions. On Monday France’s President Chirac broke ranks with western nations who want Iran to stop enriching uranium before negotiations can begin. Now he says talks should begin without this condition, although he added it would be “preferable” if Iran did stop until they concluded. Tehran would thus avoid being taken to the Security Council, a move the Iranians say might mean they would stop co-operating with the IAEA altogether.