Soltanieh’s Speech to the IAEA Board of Governors

Here is a reported account of the text of Iran’s IAEA delegate Ali-Asghar Soltanieh’s speech to the IAEA Board of Governors on June 5.  I think it makes a great read. He doesn’t pull many punches in laying out what Iran thinks is wrong with the IAEA.  I’ll insert the full text here. Whether you agree with his comments or not, I think you should read them because they are serious allegations, and contain substantive legal critiques of the Agency’s activities:


At the beginning I express my country’s sincere, sustainable, and definite support of the family of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) specifically for the statement delivered by H.E. Ambassador Shamaa of Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. at this session. Beyond doubt, resistance in achieving our absolute right for taking advantage of the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and resistance in confrontation with the pressures, the sanctions, the assassination of our dear nuclear scientists, and threats of military invasion, would serve as obstacles against employing such scenarios in other developing countries, particularly the NAM member countries. We do not permit the unjust policies and approaches of a number of western countries to be dictated to the agency. The Islamic Republic of Iran has paid a high price for not compromising and remaining committed to the articles of its Constitution. We have not given concession in order to be benefitted from our natural right of taking advantage of the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, including uranium enrichment, which is a clear example of it.’

Mr. Chairman!

Being informed about the decision of your Government about promotion and assumption of an important post in Italy thus leaving Vienna, I have to put on record the satisfaction of my delegation at the professionalism and impartiality chairing the General Conference as well the Board of Governors. I wish you all the best.

Mr. Chairman!

Permit me to commemorate the anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Imam Khomeini (P). I wish to present his viewpoints and ideas about the nuclear weapons here. This short and to the point quotation, uttered about three decades ago shows his clear condemnation against a dangerous weapon which can annihilate the human race:

‘…If they would continue production of huge atomic weapons, etcetera, the world would move towards annihilation and the nations would suffer very gravely.

‘Anyone, and wherever they are, the writers, the intellectuals, the religious thinkers, and the scientists around the globe must make aware the people of this threat so that the masses of people would stand against these two world powers and prevent the proliferation of these weapons…’

Mr. Chairman distinguished Colleagues!

In this meeting I intend to review the status quo of the IAEA and compare with the expectations as envisaged in the Statute. It is essential to remind ourselves, once in a while, the provisions of the Statute in order to prevent diversion from the principles on the basis of which the IAEA was established. In this process of critical review we got to make distinction between the Agency as a whole and the Secretariat. I decided to focus on the major problems of the Agency rather than dealing with the report of Director General on Iran since it is a side effect of fundamental problems in the Agency and its decision making process. However an explanatory note containing comments on the report will be distributed as INFCIRC document.

What is the Agency’s statutory objective and function?

According to Article II and III:

The Agency’s objective is to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. For doing so it is authorized to encourage and assist research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world;

the Agency has to make provision, in accordance with this Statute, for materials, services, equipment, and facilities to meet the needs of research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful purposes, including the production of electric power, with due consideration for the needs of the under-developed areas of the world; To foster the exchange of scientific and technical information on peaceful uses of atomic energy; To encourage the exchange of training of scientists and experts in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy;

To establish and administer safeguards designed to ensure that special fissionable and other materials, services, equipment, facilities, and information made available by the Agency or at its request or under its supervision or control are not used in such a way as to further any military purpose; and to apply safeguards, at the request of the parties, to any bilateral or multilateral arrangement, or at the request of a State, to any of that State’s activities in the field of atomic energy.

Now let’s review the past and present situation:

The unresolved issue of funding the budget of Technical Cooperation for the 5 decades, being from voluntary donations which is not assured and predictable rather than funded by regular budget, as it is in the case of safeguards, is a crystal clear problem in the status quo which shows diversion from the Statute.

I have to remind that the basic reason of the Agency’s existence is to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy throughout the world, and technical cooperation is the main vehicle for that purpose.

The Agency’s safeguard is voluntary in nature. It is applied only upon request of Member States; either in facilitating the bilateral arrangements among Member States or pursuant to a voluntary adherence to a treaty such as NPT. The safeguard is ‘nuclear material driven safeguards’ and not ‘intelligence driven safeguards’ as we are witnessing during the last decade. The Agency is not supposed to play a role of watchdog and investigator interfering in the internal affairs and national security zone of the Member States. Under the pretext of cases of Iraq and DPRK and later Iran’s nuclear issue, few Member States, permanently present in the Board of Governors have manipulated the decision making process and imposed mandates to the Safeguards Department which are in full contradiction with the Statute. The inspectors which are supposed to verify fissionable nuclear materials and related nuclear facilities declared by Member States according with the Safeguards Agreements are forced by a couple of states to be involved in intelligence activities, receiving fabricated information from the intelligence services of those certain countries, on allegations of activities not involving nuclear materials. More worrisome is continuous interaction and some cases the presence of staff in the mission of those states under the pretext of following up the allegations. Based on the information the state’s representative receives about the latest activities of the Agency in the alleged state, the alleging state prepare more forged materials and run the process. This cannot be accepted at all. The Agency’s inspectors are expected to be experts in nuclear materials and activities and not military experts. Since a decade ago, specifically under the last two DDGs, the Safeguards Department has gradually and quietly hired experts with such non-nuclear expertise and granted access to highly confidential information contrary to the regulation which only permits the inspectors after approved by member states as designated inspectors to have access to information of the state concerned.

The presence of so called ‘Cost Free Experts’ in the Safeguards Department which is dealing with confidential information is a clear breach of such requirements. The leakage of confidential information is a matter of serious concern negatively affecting the national security of a Member State. The Agency’s safeguards got involved in investigation of so called networks. According to open sources and our sources in the house, former DDGs and inspectors were involved in purely non-nuclear activities including following prosecution and intelligence activities including presence in prisons talking to members of networks, which were all beyond the statutory mandate. The IAEA is not an intelligence service but is an international technical organization. Such activities have and will change the attitudes and conduct of a nuclear expert, increase intrusiveness giving a role of investigator, rather than merely verification of the declaration of Member States, therefore, ultimately damage the trustful relation expected between Secretariat and Member States.

The other issue of concern is turning the voluntary measures such as Additional Protocol into a legally binding instrument.

According to the Statute, the Agency is an independent and autonomous organization and is not a subsidiary body of the United Nations, and not even a UN Specialized Agency. The IAEA and UN working arrangement must not be extrapolated or even interpreted as if the UN Security Council can instruct the Agency what to do, how to do and when to do! The Director General of the Agency is elected and full responsible vis-à-vis the Agency’s Member States and is not accountable to the UN Membership, the UNSC or the Secretary General of the UN. Involvement of the UNSC in Agency’s matters has created political and security dimension and prevented the Agency to continue its smooth technical verification activities.

There are number of other concerns, such as the weakness of the Agency’s policy makers in dealing with the issue of nuclear security which was taken hostage by exclusive approach depriving over 100 Member States from presence and contribution to such a global concern. Lack of verification role in nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation concerns regarding nuclear weapons threats specifically from European countries, considered as non-nuclear states parties to NPT, hosting nuclear weapons, the last but not the least the threat of Israeli nuclear weapons to peace and security of the region and the world at large are matters of serious concerns. I refrain from mentioning others due to time constraint.

Considering the above concerns, there is no doubt that few certain countries dominating and in many cases manipulating the Board of Governors, is accountable for such violations of the spirit and the letter of the Statute and shortcomings. At the same time all of us as Members of the Agency have to be blamed for not taking prompt corrective measure. Since the Secretariat is expected to fulfill our mandate is not necessarily the focus of such diversions. In this context, one could see the urgency of the reform of the Board of Governors regarding the functions, compositions, distribution of the elected and designated seats, increase of number of seat and new geographical representation proportional with Agency membership. My delegation and other many likeminded friends are determined to pursue this matter in the General Conference as the highest policy and decision making organ of the Agency.

Mr. Chairman,

Considering the above principles and concerns, permit me to shortly touch upon Iran’s nuclear issue.

The whole world is aware of the fact that in spite of the most robust inspections in the history of the Agency, more than 4000 man-day routine and over 100 unannounced inspections in Iran, even a gram of nuclear material is not diverted to military purposes and the reports of former and present Director General confirm this assertion. There is another important fact which is repeated by the Agency, namely its continuous verification in Iran without any obstacle. The only reason that the file is still open is due to politically motivated allegations by a couple of Western countries. Although in many cases the allegations have been proved baseless as the former DG reported in his reports to the Board of Governors, but due to lack of mechanism for compensations for damage to the credibility of an alleged Member State and damage to the resources and integrity of the Agency, the scenario is repeated. I have always advised the Secretariat to carefully distance itself from such political confrontation by a few countries having hidden agenda which is to derail the Agency from its statutory mandate under the pretext of Iran’s nuclear issue.

In order to prove to the international community that all such allegations are forged and baseless and our nuclear activities are exclusively for peaceful purposes, we have on many occasions worked intensively with the Safeguards Department, in many cases we had to take steps beyond our obligations under the NPT. The full implementation of the Work Plan (INFCIRC/711) of 2007, which was negotiated and agreed upon by Iran and the Agency and later endorsed by the Board of Governors, proved the political determination and good will of my Government.

Reporting technical details to diplomats and public at large is not only in full contravention with the principle of protection of confidential information but it also creates confusion for non-technical readers thus makes political confrontation among Member States. Interim reports about verification activities in the middle of a process, before the technical analysis is over, have seriously damaged the credibility of the Agency. I recall the huge political noise against my country in 2004 after the Agency reported, based on some satellite imageries, about undeclared nuclear activities in a location in south of Iran, alleged to have uranium mine, uranium conversion, and enrichment. During the Agency’s inspection, where I personally accompanied them, the inspectors found out that all were incorrect. The site belong to a private company carrying stones to harbor thus no uranium ore and those buildings which the intelligence services such as CIA and Mossad reported to the Agency to be clandestine enrichment plant were lavatories of worker! This is a shameful example of how based on a satellite imagery or oral information by unreliable sources the Agency falls into a trap and its resources are wasted and its credibility is damaged. I have tens of such examples during past decade ultimately proved wrong by the thorough technical analysis and inspections but I refrain from listing them now due time constrain. I am however well prepared to inform all cases any time requested by the Board of Governors.

Some statements specifically by EU making judgments on such technical issues, where the analysis is still going on, were very disappointing. I wonder why my EU friends and couple of others do not follow my sincere advice to convince Brussels, to refrain from such repeated provocative political statements, including calling Iran to implement the UNSC resolutions which I have already proved their lack of legal and technical basis. Is there any doubt that Iran shall never yield to pressure to suspend its enrichment process for peaceful application? I advise those who still are idealist be realistic and coup themselves with realities on the ground. We are however prepared to find out a face saving solution for a breakthrough from existing dead lock which they themselves have created.

Mr. Chairman,

Against the aforementioned background, and pursuant to the recent fruitful talks between high ranking officials and the Director General during his recent visit to my country, I would like to inform that we are intending to engage and work intensively with the Secretariat, specifically the Director General, with expectation of prompt closure of the issue after a long boring decade of allegation which has politicized the Agency and polarized its membership. I therefore warn of any gesture including language of threat and demands passing security redline which might force us to reconsider our new approach. No country will compromise its national security neither does mine. Let the Secretariat and Iran do their professional work far from political and media noise.

Mr. Chairman,

Upon request of some friends let me inform about the other important development, namely the negotiation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Group of 5+1. We do hope that the parties concerned be fully committed to the agreement made during the Istanbul-2 Talks, in order to make next meeting in Moscow a success. I recall that pursuant to the decision made in Baghdad, the deputies of H.E. Dr. Jalili and H.E. Lady Ashton are expected to meet each other very soon in order to prepare the provisional agenda and to make other preparatory arrangements in order to facilitate the smooth and effective meeting in Moscow leading to a real success. In this context the Statements of EU and US were not constructive at this historical time juncture where more cooperative environment is created after DG visit to Iran and positive atmosphere needed at the eve of Moscow meeting!

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion, I reiterate that the Islamic Republic of Iran determined to intensively work with all likeminded countries to materialize the slogan: ‘Nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none’. Iran is fully committed to its obligations under NPT. Iran has always called for negotiation as the only civilized path for removing ambiguities and promoting cooperation on global and regional issues as well as nuclear applications for peaceful uses, disarmament and non-proliferation. In this context, Iran shall continue its nuclear activities including enrichment for peaceful application without any interruption under the Agency’s supervision in accordance with the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC/214).
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


8 Comments on “Soltanieh’s Speech to the IAEA Board of Governors”

  1. Don Bacon says:

    53rd IAEA General Conference, Sep 14, 2009

    Oath of Office
    by IAEA Director General Designate Mr. Yukiya Amano

    “I solemnly swear to exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience the functions entrusted to me as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to discharge these functions and to regulate my conduct with the interest of the Agency only in view, and not to seek or accept instructions in regard to the performance of my duties from any Government of other authority external to the Agency.”

    As one having been entrusted with the responsibilities of “chief administrative officer”, Mr. Amano pledged to manage the IAEA in an impartial and reliable manner, and for the benefit of its Member States.

  2. yousaf says:

    Acting on instructions from the US, the European negotiators were determined not to “tolerate even the operation of even one centrifuge in Iran”:

    • Don Bacon says:

      Senator Kerry would have been against that. SecState Kerry, not so much (see flip-flop file).

      “The Bush administration [argument of] no enrichment was ridiculous . . . because it seemed so unreasonable to people,” said Mr Kerry, citing Iran’s rights as a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. “It was bombastic diplomacy. It was wasted energy. It sort of hardened the lines, if you will,” he added. “They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.”

  3. yousaf says:

    Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, testified to Congress last month that….the P5+1 offer was…very modest….saying that “…the sanctions relief we put on the table is not significant….”

  4. Cyrus says:

    The references to the Technical Cooperation are regarding joint Iran-IAEA programs, including in improving safety at Bushehr, which have been killed-off due to US pressure on the IAEA. The IAEA’s technical assistance program is voluntarily funded, and the US has used this as a leverage to get the IAEA to stop providing technical assistance to Iran. This violates Iran’s rights under the NPT, as well as the charter of the IAEA.

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