VIENNA - The UN nuclear agency said on Tuesday Iran must address concerns about its suspected atom bomb research, one day after Tehran alleged that “terrorists” had infiltrated the organisation to sabotage the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment plants.
Israel has issued more threats to attack Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, injecting new urgency to stalled efforts to resolve the long-running nuclear dispute with Iran by diplomatic means. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful but its refusal to curb work which can be used to build atom bombs has drawn increasingly tough Western sanctions limiting its oil exports.
“We will be intensifying those sanctions in the coming weeks and months in the absence of successful negotiations,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in London.
But he also made clear the West’s opposition to Israeli strikes on Iran, which many analysts say could cause a wider Middle East conflict and hurt an already fragile world economy.
Britain’s advice to Israel “has been very clear, that in these circumstances...we are not in favor of a military strike on Iran,” Hague told a parliamentary committee.
Israel is believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, although it refuses to disclose any capability, while Iran’s eastern neighbor, U.S.-allied Pakistan, is also nuclear-armed.
Israel sees Iran’s atomic ambitions as a mortal threat and says sanctions are failing to make Tehran change course. The United States says diplomatic pressure can still work.
In a new test of that belief, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was due to meet Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul on Tuesday evening.
Ashton is leading negotiations with Iran on behalf of six world powers - including the United States, Russia and China as well as three EU heavyweights - which have made little headway since they resumed in April.
Separate efforts by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to unblock its investigation into possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program also appear deadlocked despite a series of meetings since January.