US accuses Iran in "lies" and attacks UN chief

VIENNA, Austria — The United States assailed Iran yesterday for what it claimed were "lies" about its nuclear program and voiced unprecedented criticism of the U.N. atomic agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, suggesting he glossed over 18 years of deception that included enriching uranium and processing plutonium.

Addressing delegates, U.S. envoy Kenneth Brill criticized Iran for "violations and lies" by enriching uranium, processing small amounts of plutonium, and other activities that the Bush administration says point to a weapons agenda. "Iran systematically and deliberately deceived the IAEA and the international community about these issues for year after year after year," Brill said. The purpose, he said, was "the pursuit of nuclear weapons." Brill suggested a statement in ElBaradei's report was "questionable" in saying there was no "evidence" that Iran had tried to build nuclear weapons. Brill said the proper wording should have been that there was no "proof."

A combative ElBaradei dismissed the criticism. "Frankly, I find it disingenuous that this word 'evidence' has suddenly become a matter of disbelief," he told board members. Citing Black's Law Dictionary, ElBaradei, a lawyer, quoted entries from the book to plead his case that "proof" and "evidence" may be used interchangeably.

He suggested that in at least one instance — the war in Iraq — the IAEA's credibility was "enhanced," and America's diminished, because there is still no sign of the nuclear-weapons program the Bush administration accused Saddam Hussein of having.

"We reflect facts, as radar does, without partiality," ElBaradei said. "We do not jump to conclusions or make leaps of faith. We have not said that we have come to the conclusion that the Iranian program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, because we still have work to do."

A diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said only a few countries — Canada, Australia and Japan — supported the U.S. position.

IAEA postponed until next Wednesday a vote on its response to evidence of Iran's clandestine nuclear programmme

The US said the European draft was too soft. Adding to Ken Brill's words, Colin Powell, US secretary of state, told the Europeans this week the draft provided "no trigger mechanism in the case of further Iranian intransigence or difficulty"

Washington rejected an initial draft drawn up by France, Germany and Britain which would have put more emphasis on Iran's recent openness than on its past transgressions.

Diplomats say a new draft being worked out would satisfy Washington by including a provision allowing the board of governors to take strong measures should Iran in the future defy its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

But overall, the United States was not getting its initial wish: that the board declare Iran in non-compliance of the treaty and pass the matter to the UN Security Council, a step which would probably have led to sanctions against Iran. Even if the Europeans amend the text, diplomats said they remained determined not to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, a move that would lead to some kind of sanctions regime being imposed on Iran. A German official said this would weaken any leverage the Europeans had over Tehran

[information of The Seattle Times, The Financial Times, The Scotsman]

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