Sunday, November 29, 2009
Doubts about Iran's intentions increase after IAEA censure
So, what is Iran thinking now? Today's announcement that the Islamic republic plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants to add to its known facilities at Natanz and Qom can only be seen as a rebuke, even if a petulant one, to Friday's censure by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But why? Does Iran think it is impervious to international economic sanctions, or to military action if it starts developing nuclear weapons? Is it? The UN's nuclear monitoring agency voted 35-0 to condemn Iran for secretly building an underground enrichment facility near Qom, including votes from usual Tehran supporters Russia and China, according to the Reuters international news service. The existence of the plant, which apparently had been suspected by Western countries' spy agencies for some time, was revealed by Iran in September and discussed publicly for the first time in October by U.S. President Barack Obama at a conference in Geneva. The revelation added renewed urgency to Western nations' effort to prevent Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporting nation by volume, to develop nuclear weaponry, because the enrichment plant is not suitable for civilian nuclear power, Tehran's stated intention. Iran has backed away from an agreement with Western nations to surrender its uranium stockpiles in exchange for a guaranteed supply of low-level enriched uranium to power a medical research reactor, adding to Western suspicions. "We have a friendly approach toward the world but at the same time we won't let anyone harm even one iota of the Iranian nation's rights," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said Sunday, Reuters said. Ahmedinejad maintains Iran has a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. But Ahmedinejad does not discuss why a major oil producer like Iran would even need nuclear power for electricity when it has such an abundant supply of petroleum, a safer fuel. The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Iran's Mehr News Agency that "10 new enrichment plants will be built," Reuters said, and that locations for five of them had already been decided. The 10 proposed enrichment plants would be the same size as the facility at Natanz, Iran's main enrichment site.