Daily Israel Report

US Skeptical on Iran 'Cooperation' on Nukes

The United States is expressing caution on Iran's apparent cooperation with United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear inspectors.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 8/23/2009, 12:08 PM / Last Update: 8/23/2009, 12:31 PM

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The United States is expressing caution in response to Iran's apparent cooperation with inspectors from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran last week allowed the IAEA inspectors back into the country and lifted a year-long ban against visits to one of its nuclear facilities, according to the Associated Press. Investigators also said Iranian officials had reacted positively to their request to inspect a second site as well.

The United States, however, expressed skepticism in response to the report.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters at a briefing over the weekend that American officials are waiting to see the the IAEA's forthcoming report on Iran's compliance with the mandates set by the nuclear watchdog agency, the U.N. Security Council and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"We expect [the report] will comprehensively address all issues associated with Iran's cooperation with IAEA," Kelly said. "We're going to withhold comment until that report is released. But I will underscore that Iran does have obligations to the IAEA and to the U.N. Security Council to suspend its enrichment and heavy-water reactor activities and to cooperate to address a full range of very serious questions that we have," he said.

Although Iran said it was taking steps to increase its transparency vis a vis its nuclear development activities, the Obama administration appeared to be taking a harder line than it has in the past, preferring to see the evidence rather than take Iranian claims at face value.

"Just a few comments on these reported steps that they apparently offered to make regarding improving surveillance of the Natanz plant and access to the Arak reactor," Kelly noted. "These reported steps would not address the reason for its noncompliance nor constitute the full and comprehensive cooperation that's required of Iran, and would fall well short of Iran's obligations," he pointed out.

"And finally, I'll just highlight that they still have not responded to our offer from April to join us in P-5+1 talks that the U.S. is willing to sit down and participate in," he added. "We have not given up on it. I think you've seen the President has said that our patience is not infinite, that the timetable is not indefinite, but the invitation is still out there."

Last week Western and Israeli diplomats told the Hebrew-language Haaretz news paper that the IAEA is deliberately withholding data on Iran's attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, an effort the Islamic Republic has repeatedly denied and which numerous international intelligence agencies have reported on. The diplomats, who were not named in the report, told the newspaper that the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has not published evidence that its inspectors obtained over the past several months, and which was contained in a classified report signed by IAEA heads in Iran.