By Tigran Avetisian, RFE/RL
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has warned against "ungrounded" accusations amid growing international concerns over his country's nuclear program. Tensions have been rising as press leaks suggested that a report due for release on November 8 or November 9 by the UN atomic watchdog will produce evidence that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear arms capability.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian in Yerevan, Salehi claimed that if the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) report contained "ungrounded accusations," then that would "question the impartiality of this international organization."
"Iran has been under pressure over its nuclear program, for nearly ten years now, without any convincing evidence," he said. "I used to work as the Islamic republic's permanent representative to the IAEA. I have also worked as the head of my country's nuclear energy agency. I know all about the issue of Iran's nuclear program and its details. I'd like to point out that [the controversy surrounding] Iran's nuclear program is a political issue rather than a technical or legal one."
Report Could Trigger An Israeli Attack
The IAEA report expected this week has been viewed as a potential trigger for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
On November 5, Israeli President Shimon Peres warned in a television interview that an attack on Iran was becoming "more and more likely."
Officials in Tehran have been quick to warn against launching any military action against their country, with military chief General Hassan Firouzabidi reportedly saying that Israel would "regret any such attack and be severely punished."
And Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad accused Israel and the United States of seeking world support for a military strike on its nuclear facilities, which Russia warned would be "a very serious mistake."
A White House spokesman said Washington expects the IAEA report to "echo and reinforce what we've been saying about Iran's behavior and its failure to live up to its international obligations."
Russia and France have warned against the "destabilizing" consequences of any military attack on Iran, while Germany called for "greater political and diplomatic pressure" on Iran.
Iran Insists Nuclear Program Is 'Peaceful'
Salehi insisted on November 8 that his country's nuclear program has a "peaceful nature."
He also said that only the IAEA can express a competent opinion about Iran's nuclear program.
But he said accusations against Iran were outside the IAEA's framework, which, he claimed, proved their "intentional political direction."
According to the foreign minister, while the Iranians have complied with IAEA requirements in the past, new forms of accusations have now been leveled against them - namely, that Iran is seeking to create nuclear warheads and missiles.
"And this is the sphere in which the IAEA cannot interfere," Salehi said, making the following comparison: "It is the same as accusing someone of having some wish, which is absurd."
The IAEA has repeatedly referred Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions, and four rounds of sanctions already have been put in place.
But Tehran continues to defy the IAEA's demands to halt uranium enrichment and assure the world its programs are only for nuclear energy.
with agency reports
Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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