HERE we go again. In what looks as if it may be a replay of the Iraq game, the United States has started a pre-emptive offensive against another Middle East nation. This time it is Iran and the forum is the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency. At meetings of the Agency in Vienna earlier this week the US representative Kenneth Brill pushed for a resolution that would condemn Iran for its nuclear programme which, Mr Brill said, was being conducted clandestinely. At the same time President Bush told reporters in Washington that the United States and its allies would not “tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon in Iran”. (Mr Bush did not say which “allies” he had in mind but this time round and thus far Britain's approach to the Iran question seems to one of “constructive engagement” rather than of Washington's aggressive stand-off.)
There is some evidence that Iran is not fully co-operating with the International Atomic Energy Agency on inspections of its nuclear facilities but the governing board of the Agency at its meetings this week preferred to leave matters in the hands of its secretary-general, Mohamed ELBaradei, rather than support the US's call for a confrontational response. It is remarkable how the United States can push this matter so hard against Iran without acknowledging the existence of another state with “clandestinely conducted” nuclear facilities in the Middle East. Israel is a nuclear power although it refuses to admit the fact; the Atomic Energy Agency's inspectors have never been invited to look at its facilities and are not likely to be. Double standards again.


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