Iran may quit anti-nuclear arms pact if attacked: envoy

Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:19am EST
 
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - Any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities may lead to it withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear arms, a senior Iranian official said on Friday.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, also suggested Iran in such a case could kick out IAEA inspectors and install its uranium enrichment centrifuges in "more secure" places.

His comments may strengthen concerns among many Western nuclear experts that military action against Iran aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons may backfire and only drive its entire nuclear program underground.

There has been persistent speculation that Israel might bomb Iran, which it accuses of seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies the charge and says Israel's assumed atomic arsenal is a threat to regional security.

If attacked, "there is a possibility that the (Iranian) parliament forces the government to stop the (U.N. nuclear) agency inspections or even in the worse scenario withdraw from the NPT," Soltanieh said in a statement in English submitted to a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors.

Asked about Soltanieh's comments, Israel's ambassador to the IAEA, Ehud Azoulay, said: "I believe that they are going to do it anyhow, in the near future, so I'm not surprised.

"When they make their first nuclear explosion they will have to withdraw, I believe," he told reporters, adding he thought Iran was "following the steps" of North Korea.

North Korea was the first country to withdraw from the NPT, in 2003, and has denied IAEA access to its atomic sites. It carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and in 2009.   Continued...

 
Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh briefs the media after a meeting with IAEA's chief inspector Herman Nackaerts at the Iranian embassy in Vienna August 24, 2012. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer