The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency acknowledged today that it failed again in trying to probe suspicions that Iran has worked secretly on nuclear arms. The statement was issued shortly after an Iranian general warned of a pre-emptive strike against any nation that threatens Iran.
The double signs of defiance reflected Iranian determination not to bow to demands that it defuse suspicions about its nuclear activities despite rapidly growing international sanctions imposed because of its refusal to signal it is ready to compromise on the dispute.
With the International Atomic Energy Agency having failed to dent Iranian stonewalling in talks that ended just three weeks ago, hopes were muted that the latest effort would be successful even before the IAEA issued its statement.
The fact that the statement was issued early today, shortly after midnight and just after the IAEA experts left Tehran, reflected the urgency the agency attached to announcing the failed outcome. The language of the statement clearly -- if indirectly -- blamed Tehran for the lack of progress.
"We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached," IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said.
The communique said that on both IAEA visits, Iran did not grant requests by the mission to visit Parchin -- a military site thought to be used for explosives testing related to setting of a nuclear weapon. It said Amano called the decision "disappointing." It also said no agreement was reached on how to begin "clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran's nuclear program, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions."
The abortive trip was just the latest sign of Iranian resolve to continue hard-line resistance to international pressure to curb its nuclear activities, including U.S. and Israeli warnings of possible last-resort military action should diplomacy fail. Just hours before the IAEA team left, Gen. Mohammed Hejazi, who heads the military's logistical wing, warned that Iran will "not wait for enemies to take action against us."
"We will use all our means to protect our national interests," he told the semiofficial Fars news agency.
His comments followed Iran's announcement of war games to practice protecting nuclear and other sensitive sites, the latest military maneuver viewed as a message to the U.S. and Israel that the Islamic Republic is ready to defend itself and to retaliate against an armed strike.
The official news agency IRNA said the four-day air defense war games, dubbed "Sarallah," or "God's Revenge," will take place place in the south of the country and involve anti-aircraft batteries, radar and warplanes. The drill will be held over 73,000 square miles near the port of Bushehr, the site of Iran's lone nuclear power plant.
Iran has held multiple air, land and sea maneuvers in recent months as tensions increase, while at the same time continuing to deny any interest in nuclear weapons. It asserts that the allegations of secret work on developing such arms are based on fabricated U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
It also insists concerns that it will use its uranium enrichment program to make fissile warhead material are unfounded, saying it is enriching uranium only to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes such as producing energy.
Iran over the weekend announced that it will stop selling oil to Britain and France in retaliation for a planned European oil embargo this summer. The move was mainly symbolic -- Britain and France import almost no oil from Iran.