- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2007

VIENNA, Austria — The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency yesterday suspended nearly half of the technical aid it now provides Iran, an action in line with sanctions imposed on the country for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) already suspended aid to Iran in five instances last month in line with Security Council sanctions calling for an end to assistance for programs that could be misused to make atomic weapons. Diplomats emphasized that the freeze was temporary and subject to review and approval by the 35-nation board of the IAEA next month.

Yesterday, the agency fully or partially suspended another 18 projects that it deemed could be misused. Those too were subject to review and approval by the board.

Iran gets IAEA technical aid for 15 projects and 40 more that involve other countries. The suspensions were across the board, but in the case of projects involving other countries affected only Iran.

A diplomat familiar with the issue said the United States — along with key allies — had been seeking to have up to half of the projects involving only Iran canceled, restricted or more closely monitored.

A U.S. official said Washington’s position on which projects should be affected was “very similar” to that of the European powers Britain, France and Germany.

The officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity in return for divulging confidential information.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, was expected to attend a security conference in Munich this weekend, organizers said — reversing an earlier announcement that he had pulled out.

Klaus Treude, a spokesman for the Munich Conference on Security Policy, did not give reasons for Mr. Larijani’s decision to go ahead with his appearance. Earlier yesterday, conference officials said he had canceled because of sickness.

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany all want Iran to suspend its enrichment program and have acted as a group in trying to engage Tehran on the issue. But their approaches and priorities have differed over the past year.

Russian and Chinese reluctance to impose harsh sanctions on Tehran — as initially demanded by Washington — have created the greatest pressure. Both nations share economic and strategic interests with Iran.

Differences over how severely to punish Tehran for its refusal to suspend enrichment led to months of disputes before agreement was reached in December on a Security Council resolution imposing limited sanctions that fell short of the harsher measures sought by the United States.

The sanctions include a review of technical aid to Iran — programs meant to bolster the peaceful use of nuclear energy in medicine, agriculture or power generation.

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