Iran’s Remarks on Nuclear Arms Seen Flaming Middle East Cauldron

(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations atomic watchdog warned Iran against inflammatory rhetoric after some politicians in the country said engineers could quickly militarize its nuclear program if instructed to do so.

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Recent statements by current and former Iranian officials that its official nuclear doctrine, which prohibits the development of a bomb, could be revised are in focus at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting this week in Vienna.

Any decision to withdraw from the international agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities and build a weapon could spark a regional arms race and dramatically increase tensions between the Islamic Republic and the West.

“Many countries have said if Iran gets nuclear weapons, they will do the same,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. “Adding nuclear weapons to the cauldron of the Middle East is a very bad idea.”

Last month a senior lawmaker and a former foreign minister in Iran told state media the country could change its stance on nuclear weapons if Israel attacks its nuclear infrastructure. The comments were made after Iran and Israel almost went to war in April, when Tehran directly attacked the Jewish state with missiles for the first time.

Read More: Understanding the Dangerous Israel-Iran Conflict: QuickTake

Diplomats are weighing whether to pass a resolution of censure condemning Iran for the statements, and for stonewalling an IAEA probe into uranium particles detected at an undeclared location. Efforts to renew cooperation with the agency were disrupted by the death of Iran’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter accident last month.

“I spoke with the acting foreign minister a few days ago and I don’t have any doubt Iran will continue working with the IAEA,” said Grossi, referring to a May 31 conversation with Ali Bagheri Kani, appointed to lead Iran’s Foreign Ministry until a new government is formed.

The war in Gaza and recent missile strikes between Israel and Iran, which backs Hamas, have added urgency to the IAEA’s years-long search to uncover the scope of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

While the IAEA carries out daily inspections of declared atomic facilities, suspicions linger over whether Iranian engineers could be concealing work used for military purposes. Tehran has blocked the agency’s investigation into uranium detected at undeclared locations.

The US issued an ultimatum to Iran at the IAEA’s last meeting: cooperate or face censure, which could lead to a referral to the UN Security Council. Some European countries already wanted to dial up the pressure at the last IAEA meeting in March.

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