The directors of the International Atomic Energy Agency condemned Israel today for its raid against Iraq, recommending that Israel be denied technical assistance and be considered for suspension from the agency.
The action by the board of the U.N. agency that monitors nuclear facilities reflected broad international condemnation of Israel's dramatic air strike Sunday against the French built nuclear reactor in Iraq. The U.S. and Canadian members of the 34-nation board voted against the action while Australia, Sweden and Switzerland abstained.
Responding to an Israeli complaint at the end of a regularly scheduled meeting, the board called on the 110 IAEA member countries to offer Iraq "emergency assistance" to rebuild its reactor. Israel, which is not on the board, was denied the opportunity to respond to the complaint.
The IAEA board's recommendations must be approved by the full membership at a meeting in September.
Israel contends that Iraq was using the reactor to prepare nuclear bombs for use against the Jewish state. Earlier in the day, IAEA Director General Sigvard Eklund challenged Prime Minister Menachem Begin's charge that the reactor site included a secret chamber for drawing off plutonium, used in making bombs.
Eklund said, "The existence or otherwise of undeclared underground installations has no influence on the detection capability of the IAEA's inspectorate."
[United Press International quoted a French Foreign Ministry reply to Begin as saying, "The only installation at which this fantasy accusation could be aimed is the building . . . destined for scientific experiments concerning physics solids. This equipment cannot in any way be used for military ends."]
Eklund strongly defended the agency's prior inspection of the Iraqi reactor and said Israel's action was a blow to confidence in the IAEA's safeguard checks.
In practical terms, the steps recommended today would seem to provide little hindrance to Israel's own nuclear development, since the Israelis have drawn only minimal assistance from the agency, according to an IAEA spokesman. The recommended suspension -- there is no provision for expulsion in the IAEA statutes -- would of course prevent Israel from influencing the formulation of agency policy.
Members of the U.S. delegation declined to explain the negative U.S. vote.
The board resolution said the Israeli raid showed "clear disregard for the agency's safeguards regime and the nonproliferation treaty and could do great harm to the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." The directors said they were "gravely concerned by the far-reaching implications of such a military attack on the peaceful nuclear facilities in an [IAEA] member state."
As a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that came into force in 1970, Iraq has accepted safeguards on its nuclear activities. In a slightly pulled punch that failed to recommend suspension outright, the directors said that the upcoming IAEA general conference should "consider all the implications of this attack, including suspending the exercise by Israel of the privileges and rights of membership."
The statement did recommend that Israel be denied further assistance under the agency's technical assistance program. The directors also called attention to, but took no position on, U.N. Resolution 35157 which asks for an end to all transfer of fissionable material and nuclear technology to Israel.
Eklund released a report by the agency's safeguards division saying that given the type of reactor involved in Iraq, tampering with it to produce plutonium for a nuclear bomb or diverting enriched uranium fuel away from it for processing elsewhere into a bomb material could be detected with "a very high probability."
The director general added that the presence of a large number of French technicians on the reactor site "could also be expected to provide some assurance" that the facility would have been used for peaceful purposes.
At the same time, the report by the safeguard experts -- who had inspected the reactor regularly, most recently last January -- said they had not checked on the possible existence of facilities not under nuclear safeguards, since such a policing function is not part of the agency's function.