Hype over Iran nuclear case all but ‘legal misunderstanding’

The following is a rush transcript of Press TV’s interview with Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh on the West’s reaction to Tehran’s recent announcement that it is constructing a nuclear enrichment facility near the central city of Qom.

Press TV: Thank you very much for being with us this evening. Let’s first of all listen to [US President] Barack Obama’s announcement yesterday (Friday). Let’s have a listen to that.

“We are here to announce that yesterday in Vienna, the United States, the United Kingdom and France presented detailed evidence to the IAEA demonstrating that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years. Earlier this week, the Iranian government presented a letter to the IAEA that made reference to a new enrichment facility, years after they had started its construction,” Obama said.

Press TV: What would your response to that be Ambassador Soltaniyeh?

Soltaniyeh: Well, first of all I regret that the president of the United States is not informed, assuming that he has a good intention and he is not trying to mislead the public. Because we have given a letter — in fact a letter that I signed and handed over it to the director general on September 21. And according to this letter we have informed that: Bearing in mind the security concerns of course now we are informing publicly and announcing that there is a new site of enrichment. And then after that I had a meeting the deputy director general and other officials to arrange for verification and inspection to be conducted and implemented in Iran.

While we were working smoothly on [making] an arrangement, like any other arrangement and inspection in the country and in other countries of the world, unfortunately we all were surprised and discouraged by this political show off in Pittsburgh. Therefore, I categorically reject that there have been any concealment or any deception. We didn’t have at all any obligation to inform the agency according to the document 153, which is an INFCIRC document. And it is a pity that none of these three leaders have legal advisers to inform them that according to the Comprehensive Safeguard [Agreements], we are only obliged to inform only six months before we put nuclear material and this site does not have any nuclear material at all now.

Press TV: You are saying that you categorically deny that there has been any concealment. Obama there said, on the sound bite, we heard the term “covert”, that was a sentiment echoed by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown lets listen to what he has to say on this issue of secrecy and then we’ll come back to you.

“The level of deception by the Iranian government, and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments, confronted by the serial deception of many years,” Brown said.

Press TV: A concealment of many years, how would you respond to that? You just said that you categorically deny it but the build has been taking place for a few years now.

Soltaniyeh: Well first of all, is the construction of a civil facility considered as “deception” if you are not informing the agency or Mr. Brown? This is not a “deception”. A “deception” is if we put nuclear material in contravention with the obligation under the Safeguard and do not inform the IAEA, then that could be a question. But at this stage I’m very sorry that they would not understand even the spirit and the letter of Statute [of the IAEA] and the Comprehensive Safeguards [Agreements] and in many years I have already reflected that and no body has been to challenge me in the IAEA. This allegation that ” Iran had in the past concealment and deception” I categorically reject, and I [can] prove [my view] according to the regulations of the IAEA. and now I challenge the United States or the UK or France to come to Vienna and talk with their top legal experts and prove to me that we have had “concealment”. Until 2003, we had not implemented or signed and ratified the Additional Protocol and the 3.1 code, which is the modified code of the Subsidiary Arrangements. They do not understand these legal terms that we did not have any obligations before 2003.

And also after the issue was conveyed to New York at the [UN] Security Council, our Iranian Parliament (Majlis) passed a law that suspended the voluntary enrichment Additional Protocol. Therefore, since then we are not implementing the Additional Protocol anymore, and do not have any obligation to report to any project from the scratch when we start construction and civil construction.

That is why we are the victim of the negligence of those who claim to know the international law. They are talking in the UN but they are not aware of very principles of the Statute of the IAEA and also the Comprehensive Safeguard Agreements.

Through you I challenge them to come to Vienna and prove that we have made “concealment” or “deception”. I want to draw your attention to the fact that those three countries have violated the article 6 of the [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT for the past 40 years. When the United Kingdom has a secret [nuclear] program — the so-called Trident nuclear submarine with over GBP 30 billion [in costs] — and the people of the world and even the British people are not well aware of it, this is a real deception that Mr. Brown has to answer for to the international community, because this is a shocking threat to the international peace and security — to improve and further continue [working on] nuclear weapon programs.

And also France is working on nuclear weapons programs continuously, and they have not withdrawn from the “first-use” option that they have. And the Americans are [also] working hard on Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). These are all deceptions and concealments, and very soon in New York in the 2010 review conference, all non-nuclear armed states including Iran will challenge all of these nuclear armed states — particularly the three — to respond to the international community about their non-compliance over the last 40 years.

Press TV: You say those three are non-compliant but of course it is these countries that came out — yes they’re all nuclear states — But they are saying that your country Iran is not working whiten the legal framework. You’ve given us some explanation that you are working within the Statute let’s hear their accusations of illegal activity before I come to you. Let’s listen to that.

“The existence of this facility underscores Iran’s continuing unwillingness to meet its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA requirements. Now, Iran’s decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the nonproliferation regime,” Obama said.

” what has been revealed today is exceptional. Following the enriching plant of Natanz in 2002, it is now the Qom one which is revealed. It was designed and built over the past several years in direct violation of resolutions from the Security Council and from the IAEA.” French President Nicholas Sarkozy said.

Press TV: You said, in part there, that you feel these countries have not looked the Statute of the IAEA and they are not really giving the right information but in laymen terms we are still hearing that everyday on the news. What’s your side? What is it clearly in the Statute that says that you have actually done nothing wrong?

Soltaniyeh: Very simply I’ve already said again and again, no country party to NPT and signatory to the Comprehensive Safeguard – all your distinguished viewers can go to IAEA.org and look for document INFCIRC 153 and they can read that there is only one obligation: Only 180 days before a country puts nuclear material in a facility are they obliged to inform the IAEA where the facility is located and what are its specifications.

Since we are not going to put [nuclear materials] in the facility in the next 6 months — as our President [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] and Dr. [Ali Akbar] Salehi, Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran have said — we have been too cooperative to inform them in advance, sooner than we are obliged to inform. Therefore, it’s a pity that they are alleging that I ran was going o build this facility without informing the IAEA.

An I want to inform you that even with respect to the advanced centrifuge machines we didn’t have any obligation to inform the agency, but when the Director General [Mohamed ElBaradei] paid a visit to Iran as a matter of transparency and cooperation — you can check with him and confirm that he appealed to us for information about the new generation of centrifuges after he met the president, and the Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei], in order to prove to him that if we are requested and appealed in a cooperative environment we will show flexibility and cooperative spirit — we took the director general and his deputy and I was accompanying them and showed them all the new generation centrifuges [that we possessed at the time].

That is the problem; these Western countries, [which] echoed negatively and showed anger without any justification and spoiled that environment, do not have in-depth knowledge about our culture. If they use a language of threat and intimidation, the result would be counterproductive! But if they appeal with mutual respect, then we will be trying to cooperate.

Press TV: But Barack Obama is consciously talking about mutual respect.

Soltaniyeh: Well he is consciously talking about mutual respect, but unfortunately what he did in Pittsburgh is contrary to what he said, because he should not make any judgment before the director general reports to the Board of Governors [of the IAEA]. I have given the letter to the director general [and] we have been making arrangements for visits and inspections. Mr. Obama should have waited until the November [meeting of the Board of Governors], then he could have started talking.

What happened in Pittsburg was a hasty, unjustified and hostile reaction by the US, the UK and France. It is a clear indication that either they have an incapability to deal with their war issues, and a lack of elaborative foreign policy, long-term strategy and in-depth understanding of realities on the ground in Iran; or they want to jeopardize and destroy this spirit of cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, in order to find an excuse and pretext for further sanctions and other measures.

Moreover, they have a hidden agenda to jeopardize the credibility of the integrity of the IAEA, and I believe that, that is in fact one of the reasons that they are taking these steps. Because a couple of days before that they passed a resolution n the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for the first time, in which they looked at ways how to manipulate the IAEA, and dictate to the IAEA what to do.

I assure you that soon in Vienna, all member-states will be mobilized to put an end to such gestures, which is contrary to the letter of the Statute.

“Are they going to go down the path of giving up the acquisition of nuclear weapons and abide by international standards in their pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy, or continue going down a path that will lead to confrontation?” Obama said. “Iran repeatedly says that it’s pursuing nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes, and its actions contradict its words,” he added,

Press TV: What has Iran done to provide assurances that is nuclear energy program is actually peaceful and not for the creation of a nuclear bomb?

Soltaniyeh: Let’s ask what we have not done, that these questions are still posed? For two-and-a-half years we were voluntarily implementing the Additional Protocol. For over two years we suspended all enrichment activities, because, unfortunately, we trusted that the EU 3 — Britain, France and Germany — really had the determination to open a new chapter of cooperation. But we found out that by suspension they meant the broad concept of cessation. Later on, we noticed that the more we cooperated with them, with the IAEA, much beyond our obligation under the Comprehensive Safeguard [Agreements], even went further than the Additional Protocol — you can check with the officials of the IAEA and look at the records. The more we cooperated with them, the tougher resolutions they passed.

And finally they raise this issue in New York. There is a serious confidence deficit. We don’t trust that they really have the political will to put these issues aside. And while Iran is cooperating with the agency, let us do our work without any interference, and let’s look at the other global and regional issues. Iran has great potentials and can work with these countries for the settlement of global and regional issues and problems.

Unfortunately, what happened yesterday (Friday) in Pittsburgh, proved that the change that the new president (Obama) had promised has not been translated into action. To the contrary, we have done so. For example, we could have give this letter and inform [the IAEA] about this site later on, because we still have time according to the regulations of the IAEA, but we did it before the October 1 meeting, in order to show our political will that we want to show that we are fully transparent with the IAEA, and that the IAEA and the nuclear issue is nothing to talk about, nothing to worry about [and saying that] let’s concentrate on other global issues and regional issues.

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