Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why Iran wants UN's chief inspector removed

Kash Kheirkhah

Iran has demanded the complete removal of Chris Charlier, the UN official in charge of inspecting the country's nuclear program who had already been banned from entering Iran, accusing him of what an Iranian diplomat claimed as"passing confidential Iranian nuclear information which was supposed to be kept between Iran and the IAEA, to inappropriate countries and their media."

But who is Chris Charlier and why Iran is demanding his completet removal from its nuclear case?

Chris Charlier, a Belgian nuclear scientist who has travelled the world inspecting nuclear installations for the International Atomic Energy Agency, was the former head of a team of 15 Atomic Energy inspectors of the IAEA who have been inspecting the Islamic Republic's nuclear program since 2003. In may 2005, he spoke publicly for the first time about his inspections in Iran on a program called "Iran's nuclear secrets" aired on BBC 2 and NewsHour on PBS:

CHRIS CHARLIER: Whatever we say, whatever we do, they are always behind us with a video camera, with a microphone trying to record things that we saying. And it's a little disturbing because some people don't like it. You know, usually when we work, we don't like to have always somebody behind us, behind our shoulders and looking what we're doing or recording what we're saying. But, you know, it's part of the game.

When we asked them to get access there, they started, you know, "Well, there's nothing there," you know. "We just dismantled building, and there was nothing related to agency activities." And finally, after months of discussion, we went there.

They tried, really, I believe, to conceal their program and the activities. And, yeah, well, maybe there is things -- still others things that they are doing and we couldn't find, and that's why we are getting suspicious.

Charlier therefore believed that Iran's nuclear program could go well beyond peaceful purposes: "The way they've been postponing, and trying to gain time, is suspicious. I don't think the IAEA has any facts to support the idea that they have a nuclear weapons programme, but the way that Iran has behaved in all those smaller issues has made the agency suspicious."

As a result, in early 2006, Iran asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to remove Charlier, who had not been back to Iran since April 2006 because of Tehran's displeasure with his work and his comments, from inspection team probing Tehran's nuclear program. The IAEA bowed to mullahs' demand and replaced him although he remained the head of the team. In an interview with Der Spiegel published in July 2006, IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBaradei had this to say about Charlier's removal:

SPIEGEL: Tehran recently complained about your chief inspector for Iran, Chris Charlier, a Belgian. Is there anything to reports in the press that you removed him from his position in response to Iranian pressure?

ElBaradei: That isn't quite the way it was. Our statutes give any state being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) the right to reject an inspector who is not to their liking. It's the same thing in diplomacy, where a state can reject a proposed ambassador as a persona non grata.

SPIEGEL: So he was suspended at the request of the mullah regime?

ElBaradei: No, he continues to work in a key position relating to the Iran issue. But he will not be traveling to Tehran until further notice. We have 200 inspectors who can conduct inspections in Iran. Individual employees aren't the issue. The issue is getting the job done. I will denounce the policy the minute we are no longer able to do so in Iran.

In the very same month, Charlier spoke with another German paper"Die Welt" in which he accused the Iranians of tricks and deceptions on their nuclear activities and concluded "Tehran is obviously making a bomb."