International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei welcomed yesterday’s US announcement of its readiness to join the European Union-led talks “once Iran responds positively to the IAEA Board of Governor’s call for the suspension of enrichment-related and reprocessing activities as a confidence-building measure.“Dr. ElBaradei strongly encourages Iran to create the conditions necessary for the resumption of these talks, with US participation, with a view to achieving a comprehensive settlement that is acceptable to both the international community and Iran,” the Agency added in a statement.Mr. ElBaradei, who has consistently called for talks to resolve diplomatically suspicions that Iran’s atomic programme is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, discussed the issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington last week. Earlier this year, the IAEA referred the issue to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions, after Mr. ElBaradei reported that although the Agency had not seen any diversion of material to nuclear weapons or other explosive devices, it was still not able to conclude that there were no undeclared Iranian nuclear materials or activities. Iran says its activities are solely for energy purposes but the United States and other countries insist it is clandestinely seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Last August, Iran rescinded its voluntary suspension of nuclear fuel conversion, which can produce the enriched uranium necessary either for nuclear power generation or for nuclear weapons.
The military operation – launched on 3 June by the national army (FARDC) against militants aligned with the Front de Résistance Patriotique de l’Ituri (FRPI) – is the latest attempt by the UN-backed Government forces to protect civilians and neutralize the threat posed to peace in the country. “This attack demonstrates the strong commitment of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fight all armed groups,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler, said in a press release.MONUSCO’s support comes at the FARDC’s request following a breakdown of negotiations with FRPI combatants who, as of early 2015, counted a contingent of some 300 child soldiers among their ranks. In addition, the militia also stands accused of gross human rights violations and illegal traffic of natural resources.Speaking from the frontlines of the hostilities from where he is supervising the UN’s on-the-ground engagement, MONUSCO Deputy Head David Gressly reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the country’s political impasse. “The National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programme, which we fully support, will make every effort to welcome combatants who lay down their arms,” Mr. Gressly stated. “I call on FRPI combatants to enrol in this Government programme which is supported by MONUSCO.”Mr. Gressly is currently travelling between the cities of Bunia and Aveba, in the country’s northeast, where MONUSCO has deployed several units and used attack helicopters to support the Congolese army’s efforts.