Iran Calls For Ban On Striking Nuke Facilities

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VIENNA, Austria — Iran, whose nuclear facilities are under threat of possible Israeli military strikes, proposed Wednesday that a 150-nation conference convening in the fall ban such attacks.

Iran says the proposal, revealed to The Associated Press by diplomats and confirmed by a senior Iranian envoy, is not linked to veiled threats by Israel of an attack as a last resort if the international community fails to persuade Tehran to freeze its nuclear activities.

Instead, all of the diplomats said the Iranian initiative seeks support for a generally worded document prohibiting all armed attacks against nuclear installations anywhere, when 150 nations convene for the September general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We are not worried about Israel," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief envoy to the IAEA. "Nobody dares to do anything against Iran."

He said an Iranian resolution will seek a worldwide ban on such attacks as "a matter of principle."

"I think this is an urgent concern for all of the international community," he said. "All member states will support the idea."

He said his country submitted a proposal that a resolution specifying such a ban be put forward for a vote at the meeting, which begins Sept. 14.

The IAEA's general conference already passed a resolution in September 1990 entitled "Prohibition of All Armed Attacks Against Nuclear Installations Devoted to Peaceful Purposes Whether Under Construction or in Operation."

But Soltanieh, who said his country was a key architect of that document, said a fresh resolution was called for because "nuclear installations all over the world are increasing and any sort of threatening attacks ... will have radiological consequences all over the world."

But Israeli warplanes have attacked nuclear sites before, and Iran appeared to be trying to ramp up diplomatic pressure on the Jewish state in hopes of reducing the chances of an attack.

The country's war planes crippled Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 to prevent Saddam Hussein from the means of developing nuclear weapons. More recently, an Israeli air attack nearly two years ago destroyed what the U.S. says was a nearly finished nuclear reactor in Syria that would have been able to produce plutonium when completed.

Israel, which is considered to have nuclear weapons, has been quiet publicly regarding its military intentions but has sent several signals to Iran.

Most recently, an Israeli submarine believed to have the capability of carrying nuclear-tipped missiles last month returned to the Mediterranean after crossing to the Red Sea in the direction of Iran, a mission seen as a warning. Also, Israel has held air force maneuvers that were described unofficially in Israel as mock attacks on Iranian targets.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last month suggested on a talk show that the United States would not stand in Israel's way if it chose to attack Iran to scuttle its nuclear ambitions. And the administration of President Barack Obama itself has not taken the Bush era option of a such a strike by U.S. forces off the table.

Still, Israeli strategists face far more formidable odds than they did against Iraq or Syria if contemplating any attack on Iran.

Its main known nuclear site at Natanz, a city about 300 miles (500 kilometers) south of Tehran, is far underground in a cavernous fortified hall where thousands of centrifuges churn out enriched uranium, a potential core for nuclear warheads.

Its above ground facilities – the Bushehr light-water reactor and the Arak heavy water reactor under construction - are ringed by anti-aircraft defenses.

And IAEA officials, speaking privately, have not ruled out the chance that Tehran is hiding other nuclear sites in areas in the sprawling country that are not known to Israeli intelligence.

Iran has defied three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at pressuring it to mothball uranium enrichment. It also is resisting an IAEA probe of intelligence-based information that it had drafted plans and conducted experiments for a weapons program.

Tehran denies such charges and insists its enrichment program is geared only toward generating the fuel to produce nuclear energy.

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