Amid warning by the UN nuclear watchdog that Iran could be hiding multiple secret nuclear sites, the UN and Iranian officials have been secretly engaged in negotiating a deal to allow Tehran keep most of its nuclear programme and end sanctions in return for co-operation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, a news report said on Tuesday.
The 13-point pact was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in a bid to end the deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme before he ends his term in office this month, according to The Times, which based its report on a key draft document leaked to British newspaper.
However, the UN nuclear watchdog denied the existence of the document. Despite disclosure by the IAEA that Iran could be hiding multiple secret nuclear sites, diplomats believed that ElBaradei was hoping to agree on the outline of a deal with Tehran that he could present to the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany as a solution to the stalemate, the report said.
According to officials, ElBaradei was anxious to secure his legacy after infighting over his perceived weakness in dealing with Iran. The plan would require the UN Security Council to revoke the three existing sanctions and five resolutions directing Iran to end its uranium enrichment, the report said.
Russia and China, who have strong commercial ties with Iran and have been reluctant to enforce crippling economic sanctions, may see merit in the plan to end the deadlock as envisaged by the UN nuclear watchdog chief. There was hope of reaching a consensus in September as Iran allowed IAEA inspectors last month to visit a second uranium enrichment plant, which was discovered to be under construction near Qom.
ElBaradei's draft agreement envisaged allowing Iran to maintain and even expand its uranium enrichment programme, albeit under closer IAEA scrutiny, as part of a globally managed nuclear fuel bank. "The sides are to set up an international consortium for uranium enrichment, both in Iran and outside Iran," the document was quoted as saying by the Times.
According to Section ten of the document, the signatories would report positively to the UN Security Council, where Iran would be rewarded with the lifting of sanctions if Iran complied with the arrangements, it said. "At first, the sanctions prohibiting the movement of scientists and technicians are to be lifted immediately, as are the sanctions connected to the supply of spare parts for aircraft and other essential activities," the London-basded daily quoted the document as saying.
"The agency has indicated that its declaration of the new facility reduces the level of confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction and gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities not declared to the agency," the report said.