Wednesday, August 30, 2006

August 31 Deadline Approaches

The Washington Post reported on August 30, 2006 that Iranian nuclear specialists have begun enriching a new batch of uranium. Inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency plan to formally disclose the new enrichment work, as well as additional Iranian nuclear advances, in a report due out on August 31, 2006. The officials, who revealed the information on condition of anonymity, stressed that the Iranians are working at a slow pace with small quantities of uranium, and that they are enriching the material to an extremely low level that could not be used for nuclear weapons. Still, it is unlikely that the Iranians will stop the work in time to meet the Security Council's August 31 deadline.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said, “We've seen no indication that Iran intends to comply with the U.N. Security Council's condition of suspending its nuclear program. Should it not comply by Thursday, and should the IAEA report confirm Iran's continued efforts to enrich uranium, the U.S. will move to begin sanctions discussion at the United Nations, and we expect a sanctions resolution to be passed.”

On August 29, Britain's UN ambassador Jones Parry said that he expects the UN Security Council to take up the Iranian nuclear issue in mid-September if Iran does not comply with demands to suspend uranium enrichment activities by August 31. According to Parry, “I would expect the dossier to come back into the council shortly, but only after a further period of discussion among capitals. I would expect activities here to resume toward the middle of September.”

Meanwhile, on August 29, 2006, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad declared support for Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear technology. In a meeting with the visiting head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi in Kuala Lumpur, the former Malaysian prime minister said that Iran is being prevented access to peaceful nuclear technology by the very countries which possess the biggest nuclear arsenal. Mohammad said, "They are opposing Iran because they believe that they have the sole right to this knowledge.”

In related news, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a press conference on August 29 to focus attention on his challenge to the president of the United States: a face-off in a live televised debate. Mr. Ahmadinejad also found himself challenged by local reporters who questioned the government’s economic program and its tolerance of a critical press.

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