US gives Iran until March to cooperate with IAEA

The United States has set a March deadline on for Iran to start cooperating in substance with a UN nuclear agency investigation, warning Tehran the issue may otherwise be referred to the UN Security Council.

The comments by US diplomat Robert Wood to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signaled Washington’s growing frustration at a lack of progress in the IAEA’s inquiry into possible military dimensions to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s refusal to curb its nuclear work with both civilian and military applications, and its lack of openness with the IAEA, have drawn tough Western punitive measures and a threat of pre-emptive military strikes by Israel.

A year ago, the IAEA published a report with a trove of intelligence indicating past, and some possibly continuing, research in Iran that could be relevant for nuclear weapons. The IAEA has since tried to gain access to Iranian sites, officials and documents it says it needs for the inquiry, but so far without any concrete results. The two sides will meet again this month.

In his statement, Wood requested IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to say in his next quarterly report on Iran, likely due in late February, whether Tehran has taken “any substantive steps” to address the agency's concerns. “If by March Iran has not begun substantive cooperation with the IAEA, the US will work with other board members to pursue appropriate board action, and would urge the board to consider reporting this lack of progress to the UN Security Council,” Wood said.

“Iran cannot be allowed to indefinitely ignore its obligations ... Iran must act now, in substance,” Wood said.

Tehran threatens to pull out of NPT

Any military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities may lead to the country withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact designed to prevent the spread of nuclear arms, a senior Iranian official said on Friday. In case of an attack, “there is a possibility that the (Iranian) parliament forces the government to stop the (UN nuclear) agency inspections or even in the worse scenario withdraw from the NPT,” nuclear envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in a statement in English to the UN agency’s 35-nation board.

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