Proliferation Press

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‘These Boots Were Made For Walking…’ ElBaradei Walks Out During EU Speech During IAEA Meeting

Posted by K.E. White on September 11, 2007

IAEA head ElBaradei acted anything but diplomatic during an EU speech at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting today. After hearing an EU speech that seemed to undermine his new plan for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis, he walked out.  The IAEA Board of Governors reviews the nuclear watch dog’s performance. The group, comprised of representatives of thirty-five member, meets five times a year to make recommendations chief operating body: the General Conference.

This rare expression of disapproval highlights the continuing tensions between IAEA member-nations in how to deal with Iran. While the United States and Europe (as represented by the EU) are pushing for continued sanctions on Iran if this new deal isn’t acted out immediately. But other IAEA members, particularly Cuba, want more of a carrot approach: insisting that if Iran abides the agreement, current sanctions will be lifted. 

Below is a section from an AFP press clip. The report views the incident as evidence of an acrimonious split between Western countries wanting heavier pressure on Iran, and members of the Nonaligned Powers wanting a peaceful, and less hard-line response to Iran:

UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei walked out on an afternoon session Tuesday of his IAEA to protest an EU speech which did not fully support his deal for new inspections in Iran, diplomats told AFP.

“He walked out because the EU did not support the Secretariat,” a diplomat who was at the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors said.

The timetable, in a report ElBaradei submitted to the board on Monday, is to resolve outstanding questions in the agency’s over four-year-old investigation of Iran on US charges that Tehran is using a civilian energy program to hide the development of nuclear weapons.

The speech focused on Iran’s lack of cooperation, including its refusal to provide early design information on new nuclear facilities, and called repeatedly on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

After walking out, ElBaradei stayed away until the session was adjourned at its regular time until Wednesday. The Portuguese speech was followed by speeches from Canada and Norway.

This International News Herald report gives more insight into this high-level diplomatic feuding. It shows, in detail, the two takes on Iran at the IAEA:

The statement said the EU has “taken note” of those efforts — the most noncommittal of diplomatic terms that falls substantially short of approval. A diplomat who spoke to the AP on condition anonymity because she was not authorized to divulge proceedings at the closed meeting, said ElBaradei subsequently left the conference, apparently to show his disapproval of the EU’s lukewarm approach.

In contrast, a nonaligned statement delivered by the Cuban ambassador cited the pact under which Iran is cooperating with the IAEA as saying Iran will be treated “in a routine manner” if it holds to the agreement and fully answers all questions posed by the agency.

That would mean an end both to U.N. sanctions and the threat of new ones for Iran’s refusal to end uranium enrichment — a position strongly opposed by the United States and most other Western countries.

The International News Herald goes on to show how this fight over diplomatic interpretation went in a pro-US direction, provoking the ire of Nonaligned IAEA member-nations.  

Nonaligned nations on Tuesday rejected “interference” in attempts to close the file on Iran’s past nuclear activities — an allusion to U.S. concerns about the International Atomic Energy Agency’s newest Tehran probe. But Europe sided with Washington.

Norma Miguelina Goicochea Estenoz of Cuba also expressed support for the work of the agency and its head, Mohamed ElBaradei, in her separate capacity as head of the agency’s nonaligned board members.

Her statements outside the agency’s 35-nation board meeting reflected the main dispute at the gathering: whether a pact committing Iran to cooperate with an agency probe of past nuclear activities will blunt attempts to pressure Tehran to scrap uranium enrichment — technology that could be used to make a bomb.

Washington and its allies fear too much emphasis on the pact and its successes could weaken efforts to impose new U.N. Security Council sanctions should Tehran continue defying the council and expand uranium enrichment. They also feel the text of the pact is flawed, imposing limitations on what the agency can look into and giving Tehran wiggle room to back out if those conditions are not met.

But Cuba and the majority of the other nonaligned nations, which make up about a third of the board, insist the pact, agreed to last month, represents a potential breakthrough in more than four years of diplomatic maneuvering meant to reduce any nuclear threat from Iran.

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