#Iran agrees to UN IAEA visit 28 Jan 2012

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English: Flag of the International Atomic Ener...

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A HIGH-LEVEL UN nuclear agency delegation will visit Iran late this month to try to clear up claims of covert weapons activities that have stoked tensions between Tehran and the West.

The trip led by International Atomic Energy Agency chief inspector Herman Nackaerts and the agency’s number two Rafael Grossi would last from January 28 through the first week of February, one Western diplomat said last night.

Another envoy also said the visit, two months after an IAEA report on Iran took suspicions to a new level that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons, would “likely” be from January 28, although it was not yet definite.

There was also some “ambiguity” on whether the delegation would merely hold talks with Iranian officials or be able to visit sites covered in the IAEA’s bombshell November 8 report, the second diplomat said.

“It may be that the Iranians just want a short discussion in Tehran, which would not be what the IAEA is looking for,” the envoy said.

An IAEA spokesman declined to comment. Iran’s ambassador, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, who said in December he would hold talks with the IAEA in Vienna this month about a visit, was not immediately available to say any more.

The delegation would include alongside the Belgian Mr Nakaerts and the Argentine Mr Grossi – IAEA head Yukiya Amano’s chief of staff – the body’s senior legal official Peri Lynne Johnson, a US citizen, envoys said.

“The aim of this mission is to try to get answers once and for all to all the questions raised by the IAEA’s report in November,” the first diplomat said.

Iran is already subject to regular safeguards inspections of its uranium enrichment facilities, with IAEA inspectors having already visited the country this year.

But this trip could cover sites where other activites are alleged to have taken place that could be relevant to the development of a nuclear bomb. The last time Mr Nackaerts visited was in the second half of last year.

Iran denies seeking atomic weapons, saying its program is peaceful, but Western countries strongly suspect otherwise and the UN Security Council has slapped four rounds of sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Ali Larijani, the influential speaker of Iran’s parliament, said on Thursday during a visit to Turkey that his country stood ready for negotiations with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

In its November 8 report, rejected as “baseless” by Iran, the IAEA had said it was able to build an overall impression that Tehran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”.

The evidence included a bus-sized steel container visible by satellite for explosives testing and weapons design work, including examining how to arm a Shahab-3 missile, capable of reaching Israel, with a nuclear warhead.

Since the publication of the report, Western countries have sought to increase pressure on Iran, with Washington and Brussels taking aim at Iran’s oil industry and its central bank, while pressing Japan and China to join in.

Iran, where a judge on Monday reportedly sentenced to death a US-Iranian former Marine for “membership of the CIA”, has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for 20 per cent of the world’s oil.

Also on Monday the IAEA said that Iran had starting enriching uranium to purities approaching that needed for a nuclear weapon inside a mountain bunker at Fordo near the holy city of Qom.

This was a “very significant step”, Oliver Thraenert from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin said, saying he was not optimistic that the upcoming IAEA visit would achieve much progress.

“We are already in a confrontation between the West … and Iran, with more and more escalation going on on both sides,” he said.

“The Iranians are becoming much more nervous, this is obvious.

“But both sides are reluctant about escalating the situation to a point where a military confrontation would become unavoidable … particularly prior to US presidential elections (in November).”

Iran says the 20-per cent enriched uranium is for medical purposes but Washington called the start of operations at Fordo “a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations”.

On Wednesday Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant, died in a car bomb blast that Tehran blamed on the US and Israel, the third scientists to meet such a fate in the past two years. Thousands attended his funeral in Tehran last night.

AFP

Iran agrees to UN inspectors visit | The Australian.

Britain Will Extradite Accused #Iran Arms Trader

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Christoper Tappin. Photo - PA

Christoper Tappin. Photo - PA

A retired businessman has lost a High Court fight against being extradited to the United States over charges of conspiring to sell parts for Iranian missiles.

Christopher Tappin, 64, of Orpington, south-east London, denies conspiring to export the batteries for Hawk air defence missiles.

He has claimed he was the victim of an FBI “sting”.

However, judges at the High Court said his argument was “unsustainable”.

Aiding and abetting

They said it would not be “oppressive” to extradite him.

His representatives said the case would now be taken to the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases.

Mr Tappin is wanted in El Paso, Texas, on a charge of conspiring to export defence articles without licence or approval and aiding and abetting the attempted export of defence articles without the required licence.

He is also accused of intentionally and unlawfully attempting to conduct financial transactions from the outside to a place inside the US, with the intent to promote the carrying on of a specified unlawful activity.

“I was relying on the British justice system to protect me from false allegations made by a maverick government agency clearly operating outside the law in the US”

If convicted, he could face up to 35 years in prison.

Mr Tappin, the former director of Surrey-based Brooklands International Freight Services, said he believed he was exporting batteries for the car industry in the Netherlands.

He was “thoroughly disappointed” with the High Court judgement, he said.

He added: “I was relying on the British justice system to protect me from false allegations made by a maverick government agency clearly operating outside the law in the US.

“Our extradition laws completely fail to prevent such improper extraditions.”

He said he feared the impact it would have on his family and close friends, and would consider the options to “bring an end to this nightmare”.

‘Horrendous extraditions’

Karen Todner, of Mr Tappin’s solicitors Kaim Todner, said: “Yet again this one-sided treaty is set to destroy a British citizen’s life.

“We would urge the government to take urgent action to review this treaty and stop these horrendous extraditions.”

Mr Tappin had been challenging a decision made in February last year by district judge John Zani at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court that extradition could go ahead.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, appearing for Mr Tappin, told the High Court at a hearing in December that his client was the victim of an abuse of power.

Mr Fitzgerald said FBI agents pretending to belong to a fictitious export company known as Mercury Global Enterprises set out to “dupe, deceive and ensnare” unsuspecting businessmen.

In June last year, the Home Office said it would not refuse Mr Tappin’s extradition on human rights grounds.

BBC News – Iran arms accused Christopher Tappin to be extradited.