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UN nuclear body ends annual meeting in disunity

The United Nations atomic agency ended its annual member state meeting in disunity late on Friday, with delegates unable to adopt a resolution on a policy area central to its work in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.


September 24, 2011 4:30 by

Two Western diplomats accused Iran, Cuba and Egypt — the troika representing non-aligned states within the International Atomic Energy Agency — of blocking attempts to find a consensus on a safeguards resolution.

One of them said the outcome would have no concrete impact on the agency’s activities in seeking to make sure nuclear material is not diverted for non-peaceful purposes, a crucial task for the UN body under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But “visually it is a demonstration of division in an important area,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from the IAEA missions of Iran, Egypt or Cuba.

The annual General Conference of the IAEA’s 151 member states traditionally adopts a number of texts, setting out general and often vaguely worded policy aspirations and guidelines.

But this year’s meeting failed to agree on a resolution entitled “Strengthening the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of the safeguards system and application of the model additional protocol.”

It had been submitted by some 30 Western countries, most of them from Europe.

“Egypt, Iran and Cuba refused to accept any resolution on procedural grounds,” the diplomat said.

Safeguards refer to measures undertaken by UN inspectors to discover any attempt by non-nuclear weapons states to use atomic technology or material for developing weapons — for example regular visits and camera surveillance of sites.

The diplomat said Iran, Cuba and Egypt wanted to include language in the resolution giving the agency a role in nuclear disarmament, apparently reflecting frustration on their part at the lack of fast progress on this issue.

Such a role was unacceptable to the five recognised atomic weapons states — the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain — which believe the IAEA is not the right forum for this, he said.

Another Western diplomat made clear his anger at the three countries, accusing them of demonstrating “a willingness to destroy any international consensus on the issue.”

The West accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability in secret. Iran denies this, saying its nuclear programme is designed to generate electricity.

Tehran often hits out at the United States over its atomic arsenal, and also criticises the Islamic state’s arch foe, Israel, and that country’s assumed nuclear weapons. (Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Tim Pearce)


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