HEAD of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed El-Baradei, charged that Iran is not fully cooperating with UN inspectors and called on it to come clean about the full extent of its nuclear programme.
El-Baradei told the board of the IAEA during their meeting in Vienna on Monday that Iran's cooperation has been "less than satisfactory" and warned that clarification of unresolved issues, particularly over Iran's uranium enrichment activities, could not be allowed to drag on forever.
"It is essential for the integrity and credibility of the inspection process that we are able to bring these issues to a close within the next few months, and provide the international community with the assurances it urgently seeks regarding Iran's nuclear activities," he said.
The United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, of which uranium enrichment is a crucial element, and says the issue should be brought before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. At the IAEA board meeting the US pushed the agency to set Iran a deadline for full cooperation.
Washington, however, does not have support at the IAEA for its hard-line stance. Instead, the board was set during the week to consider a British-French-German draft resolution that blames Iran for failing to fully disclose its nuclear activities and calls for it to cooperate further in the agency's investigation. One board member doubted a timeline for Iran could be included at this point.
On the other hand, Tehran denies having weapons ambitions, insisting it is only interested in generating electricity. Moreover, it wants the IAEA to give it credit for the information it has disclosed to date, saying failure to give due recognition will affect future cooperation.
Tehran's senior IAEA delegate, Hussein Mousavian, defended his country's stance, saying it was providing "full cooperation", supplying all information requested and narrowing down the range of outstanding issues. Iranian President Mohamed Khatami has also told Britain, France and Germany to stop pressuring the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme or risk pushing Iran to consider "other alternatives" to cooperating with UN inspections.
ICRC worried over Saddam's fate
THE INTERNATIONAL Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) demanded on Monday that ousted Saddam Hussein be freed or charged before the handover of power to Iraq's interim government on 30 June.
ICRC spokeswoman, Nada Doumani, said holding Saddam without charge after the transfer of power from the US-led coalition would be against international humanitarian law.
"If 30 June officially marks the end of the occupation, the coalition must free Saddam Hussein, who is a prisoner of war, unless he has already been charged before that date," Doumani said. Doumani explained that under international and military law, prisoners of war and civilian internees should be released at the end of the conflict or occupation, unless charges are brought against them.
Saddam's case is comparable to that of any other prisoner of war -- a status conferred on him by the detaining authorities, she said. "The coalition can also hand over Saddam Hussein to the Iraqis who can charge him under Iraqi law," she added.
Saving the symbol of atrocities
IRAQ'S interim President Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar said on Sunday that he had refused a US offer to demolish the notorious Abu Ghraib jail where inmates were abused and humiliated by US troops.
He said Iraq cannot afford to tear down a prison that cost more than $100 million to build, despite its grim history.
"It's a prison that we spent more than $100 million building," Al-Yawar told ABC television's "This Week" programme. "And if we consider it a symbol of Saddam's atrocities, Saddam used to torture people in each and every basement in Iraq, so that means we have to demolish all government entities. That's unwise," he said.
The interim president stressed that Iraqis need "every single dollar" they have to rebuild not demolish the country.
Bush said last month that the United States was ready to pay for Abu Ghraib -- which he called "a symbol of disgraceful conduct" -- to be demolished and replaced, if the Iraqi interim government agreed.
Many groups in Iraq have also rejected Bush's proposal to pull down Abu Ghraib. Some politicians have said it should become a museum, others that it should continue to be used as a jail.
Back to square one
THE RESIGNATION of the UN special envoy for Western Sahara, James Baker, elicited mixed reactions among the territory's rivals. On Monday, Moroccan newspapers said Baker's resignation paved the way for "a fair solution" to the conflict in the disputed northwest African territory.
Baker's resignation, announced last week, "creates a climate that is favourable to a fair solution" for Western Sahara, where the Algerian-backed Polisario Front has been fighting for independence from Morocco for nearly 30 years, wrote the pro-government newspaper Al-Bayan.
The paper accused Baker of "having flagrantly sided with Algeria" in the row over the mineral-rich territory, and of trying to "impose his plan on Rabat, flying in the face of dialogue and mediation".
In stark contrast to the Moroccan media's reaction to Baker's departure, Algeria paid homage to the UN envoy's "qualities as a loyal negotiator, and his perseverance", noting his peace plan, which was "unanimously adopted by the Security Council" remains an "optimum political solution" for the territory.
Polisario has described the UN envoy's resignation as "an explicit form of protest over Morocco's intransigent position".
Baker resigned last week after serving since 1997 as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Western Sahara, the territory which was annexed by Morocco on independence from Spain in 1975 despite a World Court ruling in favour of its autonomy.
Baker drafted a plan providing for a large degree of autonomy for Western Sahara during a five-year transition period followed by a referendum on self-rule. The plan, however, stalled, first as Morocco and Polisario bickered over who was eligible to vote in the referendum, and then as Morocco rejected outright the idea of a plebiscite, saying the very notion was "obsolete and inapplicable".
The official UN envoy for Western Sahara, Alvaro de Soto, is expected to take over the work of Baker.
Declaration of war
AN INTERNET statement posted by an Algerian group linked to Al-Qaeda called on Monday for holy war against "every infidel foreigner" in Algeria. The statement was signed by Abu Ibrahim Mustafa, leader of the Salafi Group for Call and Combat.
Algerian authorities blame the group for the kidnapping of 32 Europeans last year. It is regarded as the less bloody of the two main Islamic militant groups operating in Algeria.
The authenticity of the statement, dated 6 June, could not be verified, but it was posted on a Web site that Al- Qaeda has previously used to publish claims of responsibility for operations in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
"The Salafi Group for Call and Combat in Algeria has decided that in these tough circumstances which the Islamic community in general, and holy warriors in particular, are going through to declare war against every infidel foreigner inside the borders of Algeria, whether they be individuals, interests or installations. It is fulfilling a duty to uphold Islam and Muslim self-defence against Jews, Crusaders and all infidels," the statement said.