VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has called on the U.N. atomic agency to condemn an “act of aggression” by Israel for sending, Tehran says, a drone last month to spy on a site which is at the center of its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.
The Iranian move comes ahead of a meeting next week of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency where Tehran likely faces Israeli and Western criticism for failing to address IAEA concerns about its suspected atomic bomb research.
In late August, Iran said it had shot down an Israeli drone that was heading for its main uranium enrichment site near the central town of Natanz.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the allegation by its arch foe, which the Jewish state and the United States suspect of seeking to develop the capability to assemble nuclear weapons. Iran says it is refining uranium to make fuel for nuclear power plants, not bombs, and says it is Israel’s atomic arsenal that threatens peace in the Middle East.
Israel is believed to have developed its own nuclear bombs but has never confirmed or denied their existence.
Iran’s envoy to the Vienna-based IAEA accused Israel of a “flagrant violation” of the Islamic Republic’s territorial integrity “in contravention of the principles of international law and provision of the United Nations charter”.
Iran expects the U.N. agency “to condemn this act of aggression”, Ambassador Reza Najafi added in a letter to Director General Yukiya Amano which was posted on the IAEA’s website. Dated Sept. 9, it referred to the “inviolability of peaceful nuclear activities and installations.”
Iran and six world powers are trying to negotiate an end to the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program which has led to damaging economic sanctions imposed on the major oil producer and raised fears of a new war in the volatile region.
Israel demands Iran be stripped of all its uranium enrichment capabilities, something Tehran rules out and which most foreign diplomats deem unrealistic.
Iran has accused Israel and its allies in the West of assassinating its nuclear scientists and attacking its nuclear sites with computer viruses. Israel has always declined comment.
IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the U.N. agency had circulated Najafi’s letter to all member states as requested by Iran, and that it was “studying” its content.
It was unclear whether Iran would raise the issue also at the quarterly meeting of the IAEA’s board, where Iran’s nuclear program as usual will be one of the main points on the agenda.
Diplomats said they expected some Western states to express concern during the week-long meeting about Iran’s failure to provide requested information for a long-running IAEA investigation by an agreed Aug. 25 deadline.
An IAEA report last week showed Iran had implemented just three of five transparency steps by the target date and that little headway had been made in the U.N. agency’s inquiry into allegations that Tehran has worked on designing an atomic bomb.
Iran says the accusations are false and baseless. Najafi this week said Tehran would still address the IAEA’s questions.
Editing by Dominic Evans