MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov)

The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) refused to provide Iran with technical assistance for its project to build a heavy-water reactor in Araq. The UN nuclear watchdog fears that Iran plans to produce weapons-grade plutonium there.
This decision may influence the UN Security Councilís resolution on Iran.
The IAEA Board, which met in Vienna on November 23, heard the report on Iranís nuclear program presented by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. The report had been sent to the governors confidentially ahead of the meeting. It says that the agency cannot guarantee the peaceful nature of Iranís nuclear program unless the country ensures proper transparency.
The conclusions of the IAEA governors will be forwarded to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, which are to coordinate a new draft resolution on Iran.
The United States is pushing for harsh sanctions, whereas Russia and China are in favor of much softer measures. Britain, France and Germany are advocating moderate sanctions. All of them, however, are waiting for Tehranís reaction.
A careful analysis of the recent dynamics of the Iranian nuclear problem shows that Tehran is prodding the Security Council towards adopting very harsh sanctions.
This is the only possible explanation for the recent statement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he said that Iran would by all means begin using its 60,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges.
The enrichment complex under construction in Natanz, which is expected to have 54,000 centrifuges, as well as Tehranís intention to build a heavy-water plant in Araq, make nuclear and non-proliferation experts doubt the civilian nature of Iranís nuclear program.
Nevertheless, Iran continues to burn one bridge after another.
The latest statement by the Iranian president was especially shocking, because Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, paid a three-day visit to Moscow ahead of the six-party meeting on Iran. That visit was expected to influence the wording of the UN resolution.
The tone of Larijaniís talks in Russia was predictable, especially in view of the fact that they were held before Vladimir Putinís meeting with President George W. Bush, whose plane stopped over in Moscow for refueling. Iranís nuclear program was the main issue on the two presidentís agenda.
Larijani hinted in Moscow that Iran might make considerable concessions, notably, that it may start cooperating with the IAEA and even resume talks with the Kremlin on the construction of a joint uranium enrichment facility in Russia.
In principle, Moscowís efforts have prodded the draft resolution away from the harsh American-European wording. The EUís initial version stipulated a ban on the supply of any equipment and technologies that Iran could use for its nuclear program. Freezing Iranian assets and banning the movement of Iranian nuclear specialists outside Iran were also proposed.
But the Kremlin argued that by approving such a resolution, the Security Council would usurp the powers of the IAEA, while it should instead use its prestige to support the agencyís position. The resolution also looked like an attempt to punish Iran, while it should be aimed at developing cooperation with it.
Eventually, Moscow managed to limit bans on the export of nuclear technology to Iran.
The draft resolution is being viewed as a pilot version of sanctions, although what it stipulates are in fact mere limitations that could be described as relative. Through it, the international community is sending a signal to Iran in the hope of receiving a reasonable response. That response will determine the worldís relations with Iran, including its future cooperation with the IAEA.
The UN nuclear watchdogís decision to deny technical assistance to the Araq project could be said to reflect doubts about Iranís allegedly peaceful nuclear program. -0-