Introduction: In the recent past, Iran has been under intense scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its nuclear energy program. Past failure to declare all nuclear facilities and materials in a timely fashion, as revealed in 2002 and 2003, have led to increased concerns among the international community that Iran intends to secretly develop nuclear weapons.
Iran is a member to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and concluded the comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA in 1974. Iran signed the Additional Protocol in 2003, but has
not yet ratified it.
Iran started its civilian nuclear energy program with assistance from the United States in the 1970s. Iranian nuclear facilities include an uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, and a heavy water reactor near Arak, both of which were concealed from the IAEA until 2002. In 2003, the IAEA announced that Iran had breached its safeguards agreement by failing to fully declare its nuclear activities. Furthermore, IAEA inspectors found traces of enriched uranium on centrifuges imported from Pakistan. Iran claims the contamination stems from the centrifuges’ earlier use in Pakistan and denies having tested them with uranium.
Suspicions on part of the IAEA and Western states prompted by these clandestine activities are compounded by Iran’s plans to master the nuclear fuel cycle. Iran asserts that its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes only and continues to cite its inalienable right to pursue peaceful energy under Article IV of the NPT.
Many countries suspect that Iran might be misusing Article IV of the NPT to obtain nuclear weapons capabilities and have expressed doubts regarding Iran’s stated need for pursuing sophisticated fuel cycle technologies. The United States, in particular, have been pushing for Iran’s referral to the United Nations Security Council where Iran might face sanctions for its nuclear program.
Urged by IAEA Board of Governors resolutions issued in 2003, Iran is cooperating with the IAEA to allow for the verification of its stated peaceful nuclear program. Iran voluntarily suspended its uranium enrichment activities, and allowed for more intrusive IAEA inspections. Since the fall of 2004, Iran has also been engaged in renewed negotiations with the France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (also known as the EU-3), with the prospect of agreeing on a proposal by August 2005. According to an agreement reached in November of 2004, Iran continues to temporarily suspend its enrichment activities, but has repeatedly threatened to resume enrichment if the EU-3 talks remain fruitless.
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