* Iran would eject UN inspectors if bombed, ambassador
* Israel envoy says would not be surprised if Iran leaves
* West accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons capability
* Iran sees Israel's assumed arsenal as regional threat
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA, Nov 30 Any attack on Iran's nuclear
facilities may lead to it withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT), a pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear
arms, a senior Iranian official said on Friday.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International
Atomic Energy Agency, also suggested Iran in such a case could
kick out IAEA inspectors and install its uranium enrichment
centrifuges in "more secure" places.
His comments may strengthen concerns among many Western
nuclear experts that military action against Iran aimed at
preventing it from developing nuclear weapons may backfire and
only drive its entire nuclear programme underground.
There has been persistent speculation that Israel might bomb
Iran, which it accuses of seeking a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran denies the charge and says Israel's assumed atomic arsenal
is a threat to regional security.
If attacked, "there is a possibility that the (Iranian)
parliament forces the government to stop the (U.N. nuclear)
agency inspections or even in the worse scenario withdraw from
the NPT," Soltanieh said in a statement in English submitted to
a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors.
Asked about Soltanieh's comments, Israel's ambassador to the
IAEA, Ehud Azoulay, said: "I believe that they are going to do
it anyhow, in the near future, so I'm not surprised.
"When they make their first nuclear explosion they will have
to withdraw, I believe," he told reporters, adding he thought
Iran was "following the steps" of North Korea.
North Korea was the first country to withdraw from the NPT,
in 2003, and has denied IAEA access to its atomic sites. It
carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and in 2009.
Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers, says its
nuclear programme is a peaceful bid to generate electricity.
Like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, Israel has never
signed the NPT. It neither confirms nor denies having nuclear
arms, although non-proliferation and security analysts believe
it has several hundred nuclear weapons.
"MASTER OF ENRICHMENT"
The Jewish state has said it would sign the treaty and
renounce atomic weaponry only as part of a broader peace deal
with Arab states and Iran that guaranteed its security.
Under the 189-nation NPT, which came into force in 1970,
non-nuclear weapons states commit to not develop such arms.
Israel and the United States see Iran as the world's main
nuclear proliferation danger. Iran and Arab states say Israel's
nuclear capabilities threaten regional peace and security.
In a defiant 11-page statement which prompted one Western
diplomat to say he was "very pessimistic" about a new round of
talks between Iran and the IAEA in mid-December, Soltanieh said
the Iranian nuclear file "has to be closed immediately" and U.N.
inspections work regarding the country returned to "routine".
"This is the only way that encourages Iran to show more
flexibility in taking voluntary steps," Soltanieh said.
The IAEA is seeking to resume a long-stalled investigation
into suspicions that Iran has conducted atom bomb research, and
Western officials accuse Tehran of stonewalling the inquiry.
Soltanieh said nuclear weapons have no use and only creates
vulnerability, and that any military action against Iran would
not stop it from enriching uranium.
Refined uranium can have both civilian and military
purposes, and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions
since 2006 have demanded that Iran suspend the activity,
something the Islamic state has repeatedly ruled out.
"Iran is master of enrichment technology ... it can easily
replace damaged facilities," Soltanieh said. But, he added, Iran
is "well prepared to find a negotiated face-saving solution and
a breakthrough from the existing stalemate".
Diplomacy between Iran and six world powers - the United
States, China, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain - aimed at
finding a peaceful solution to the decade-old dispute has been
deadlocked since a June meeting that ended without success.
Both sides now say they want to resume talks soon, after the
re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama, and diplomats expect
a new meeting in Istanbul in December or January.
Iran has faced a tightening of Western trade sanctions which
the United States and its allies hope will force it to curb its
nuclear programme. Soltanieh said: "Western sanctions have had
no effect whatsoever on the enrichment activities."