VIENNA -- Under pressure from a U.N. nuclear agency probe, Iran is urging member countries to revamp the agency in a way that would dilute the power of nations that fear it may be trying to make atomic arms, while giving its allies more authority.
The bid is outlined in a document submitted for the consideration of the International Atomic Energy Agency's General Conference next month and appears to be part of Tehran's broader efforts to weaken the IAEA's attempts to follow up on suspicions that it has experimented with components of a nuclear weapons program.
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Iran says such allegations are based on fabricated intelligence from the U.S., its Western allies and Israel. It also denies that its public nuclear work -- uranium enrichment -- is meant to create nuclear missile warheads, saying it is enriching only to make reactor fuel, medical isotopes and for research.
But it has deflected IAEA attempts to probe other alleged weapons research and development for over four years, as well as rejecting offers of enriched reactor fuel from abroad. Its defiance has heightened suspicions about its ultimate nuclear aims, led to U.N. and other multinational sanctions, and increased threats of armed action from Israel, which says it will never accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.
In its latest update Thursday, an IAEA report said Iran has effectively shut down a probe of a site suspected of being used for work on nuclear weapons development by shrouding it from spy satellite view. It also said Tehran doubled the number of machines it could use to make the core of nuclear warheads at an underground bunker safe from airborne attack.
Entitled "Promotion of Efficiency and Effectiveness of the IAEA Decision Making Process," the Iranian initiative calls for expanding the IAEA's decision-making board, which is now dominated by Western nations. It also demands that much of the 35-nation's board's present authority be transferred to annual meetings of the 154-country General Conference, where Iran allies are more strongly represented.
The proposal, which criticizes "the limited, unbalanced and inequitable geographical representation" of board members," is unlikely to go anywhere. Any decision taken by the conference needs to be approved by the board, which will hardly agree to weaken itself.
But it likely will give Iran and its supporters -- Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and dozens of other countries that share distrust of the U.S. and its allies -- a platform at the conference.
Iran's IAEA backers are generally the same countries that Iran is trying to rally to its cause at the ongoing summit of self-described nonaligned nations in Tehran. Many members of the 120-member nonaligned group also support Tehran's calls to increase the authority of the U.N. General Assembly at the expense of Security Council, which has imposed sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enrichment and cooperate with the IAEA.
The Islamic Republic insists that the Western-backed agency probe of its nuclear work is nothing more than an attempt to keep nuclear technology out of the hands of developed nations.