- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The leader of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency sided with the United States yesterday by calling a European resolution on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program “deficient,” while stopping short of backing U.S. efforts to involve the U.N. Security Council.

In Vienna, Austria, where the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is located, diplomats said the agency’s chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, called a proposed resolution by France, Germany and Britain too weak.

“Dr. ElBaradei has expressed his concern that the draft resolution as it stands does not sufficiently support the agency,” a Western diplomat told Reuters news agency.

The European resolution reportedly praises Iran for agreeing to halt its efforts to make weapons-grade nuclear material and for agreeing to let international inspectors into the country.

Earlier this month, the IAEA issued a report that found Iran had been involved in a covert nuclear program, including processing uranium and plutonium, in violation of its nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations for at least 18 years.

However, the report also found no evidence that Iran’s nuclear program was a covert weapons program. The IAEA board of governors will consider the report today.

A diplomat familiar with Mr. ElBaradei’s thinking said he was looking for “a strongly worded report” but one that stops short of asking for Security Council involvement.

In a related development, an Iranian opposition group that helped expose clandestine efforts to make weapons-grade uranium and plutonium released documents yesterday purporting to show that Iran is on the verge of assembling its first atomic bomb.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said the documents demonstrated that Iran could have weapons capability in as little as two months.

NCRI also said that a site previously inspected by the IAEA was a fake.

“Information from within the clerical regime made it clear that they had been taken to a site, similar to the site in question and that they were not shown the actual site,” said NCRI documents released yesterday in Vienna and Washington.

“The whole thing is a weapons program. In two months to two years, the Iranian regime will have the capability of building a bomb,” a NCRI spokesman said by telephone yesterday.

In August last year, the NCRI exposed Iran’s secret nuclear program, revealing that the regime was building an underground uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, 150 miles south of Tehran, and a heavy-water-production facility at Arak, about 120 miles southwest of Tehran.

The exposure forced Iran to open these sites to the IAEA, leading to Mr. ElBaradei’s visit in February to Tehran.

The NCRI has been branded a “terrorist” organization by the U.S. State Department, forcing it to shut down its extensive Washington lobbying organization.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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