By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 29 -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that Iran's construction of the Qom uranium-enrichment facility violates U.N. resolutions requiring it to halt all nuclear enrichment activities, adding that Tehran must prove to the world that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons.
Ban's remarks placed the U.N. leadership squarely behind the Obama administration's campaign to ratchet up international pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions on the eve of talks it is to hold Thursday with the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Ban said that he had outlined his concerns in a face-to-face meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday and that he would press the same message in talks later Tuesday with Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki.
"The burden of proof is on their side," Ban said. "This new Iranian enrichment facility is contrary to the Security Council resolution. . . . They should give full access to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] -- this is what I told him."
Also Tuesday, Iran's nuclear chief said in an unusually frank disclosure that the country's new enrichment site was built for maximum protection from aerial attack: carved into a mountain and near a military compound of the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Associated Press reported.
Ali Akbar Salehi's statement came with a hard-line message ahead of Thursday's talks: Iran will not give up its ability to produce nuclear fuel.
The Iranian government also released a statement Tuesday saying that Ahmadinejad had criticized Ban during the Friday meeting for parroting Western allegations against Iran without waiting for the IAEA to issue a formal judgment on Iran's behavior.
"The President . . . said it is of grave concern that the U.N. Secretary General, instead of waiting for the IAEA, as the competent body, to reflect on this issue, namely the new enrichment facility, has chosen to repeat the same allegations that few Western powers are making," the statement said.
Ahmadinejad also told Ban that the construction of the Qom facility is part of a larger Iranian program aimed at developing peaceful nuclear energy. Iran has repeatedly denied that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
The IAEA has not declared whether Tehran's latest project constitutes a violation of its nuclear-safeguards agreement with Iran. But the U.N. Security Council has passed numerous legally binding resolutions since December 2006 demanding that Iran suspend "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."