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As negotiators return from Vienna after weeks of Iran nuclear deal talks, UN insiders warn the Biden administration may seek to join a controversial UN agency based in the same Austrian city .
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been accused of aiding US enemies through the transfer of dual-use technologies that observers say have helped countries like Iran and North Korea to develop their nuclear programs.
The US left the agency some 20 years ago, citing it as not fit for purpose, but recent rumors of a US return have some diplomats scratching their heads . A former ambassador accredited to all international organizations in Vienna, who asked to remain anonymous, said “diplomatic circles in Vienna are abuzz over the possible return of the United States to UNIDO”.
The former ambassador said: “It is believed that the amount owed in accumulated arrears would be $1 billion, given that when the United States left in 1996 they did so without paying their $100 million of contributions”.
The diplomat recommended that with the installation of a new American ambassador in Vienna in charge of international organizations, Laura Holgate, should “request the list of UNIDO staff, which has approximately 1800 consultants, including those hired without a process transparent and competitive and working remotely since It is high time to thoroughly investigate and publish why UNIDO, considered both marginal and useless by Anglosphere states, should employ 1800 permanent consultants, in more than 650 permanent?
And while a question at the US State Department about the US returning to UNIDO went unanswered, the UN Mission in Vienna recently praised UNIDO in a Tweet, noting that despite not being a member, the United States has donated millions of dollars to the controversial organization since 2012, through the United States Agency for International Assistance (USAID).
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Asked by Fox News Digital if the sum was tied to preconditions, a USAID spokesperson confirmed that they had disbursed $22.2 million to UNIDO since 2012, and noted that it ” prioritizes the responsible stewardship of the resources of American taxpayers.”
The spokesperson did not respond directly to questions about UNIDO sharing dual-use technology with US enemies like Iran and North Korea. However, the spokesperson said he monitors all funds disbursed to UNIDO, which “includes routine reporting and communications with UNIDO, as well as site visits and evaluations”.
The potential move for a US return has drawn strong criticism from President Trump’s former US national security adviser John Bolton and other UN and national security experts .
Bolton told Fox News Digital “The United States withdrew from UNIDO, as did a number of other developed countries, because UNIDO was widely seen as ineffective. Nothing has changed that justifies the annulment of the American decision.”
Brett D. Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation, and a leading expert on UNIDO, told Fox News Digital: “As the United States concluded in the 1990s when it withdrew, the UNIDO has no clear purpose and does not contribute to US foreign, economic and political policy. , or development interests. There is no reason to join other than the fact that the Chinese are active in UNIDO. Countering China should be a factor in decisions about joining UN organizations, but not the only one. A central question must be whether US interests are affected by the organization. At UNIDO they are not.
Schaefer added that the Biden administration could be breaking US law if it joins UNIDO.
“In 2018, Palestinians joined UNIDO as full members. Under US law, UN specialized agencies that admit the PLO as a member are not allowed to receive funds Americans,” Schaefer said. “If the United States has provided funds since 2018, I believe that would violate the law.”
“Furthermore, changing the law would undermine U.S. interests in supporting Israel and advancing peace between Palestinians and Israelis. United Nations,” he continued. “For decades, the United States has opposed Palestinian efforts to gain recognition and membership in UN organizations in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel because it understood that this was detrimental to the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort by removing incentives for the Palestinians to negotiate.”
UNIDO could accelerate the Islamic Republic’s ability to build a nuclear weapon by ensuring the transfer of dual-use technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes.
In 2015, UNIDO signed an agreement with Iran’s Supreme Council for Science, Research and Technology (SCSRT). The objective of the agreement was to strengthen cooperation on “the development of industrial policies and strategies for investments in education, research and technology”.
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A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital that “the United States remains vigilant regarding reports that Iran may be pursuing dual-use technology to enhance its nuclear program.” [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]the acquisition of dual-use items requires the approval of the United Nations Security Council under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.”
Daniel Roth, research director for United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI,) told Fox News Digital that he finds it “unfortunate that the US mission to the UN has seen fit to applaud UNIDO”. He explained how Iran is using UNIDO for its own nefarious purposes.
“The composition of the SCSRT (Supreme Council for Science, Research and Technology of Iran) – which includes the Iranian President as well as several government ministers – shows how central the SCSRT and UNIDO are to science and technology policies of the regime,” Roth said. noted.
“We know Iran is ready to exploit any avenue to advance its nuclear program. Even the most seemingly innocuous avenues like academic exchanges with European universities are targets,” Roth continued. “The problem of sharing ‘dual-use’ technology – civilian technology with military application – is particularly acute and difficult to track. If the regime can progress under the guise of UN agencies like UNIDO, so much the better. “Iranian state media is causing a lot of controversy by publicizing anything that has the imprimatur of the UN.”
Fox News Digital sent questions to Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Iran’s United Nations Mission and UNIDO’s Tehran field office for comment, but they did not respond.
UNIDO and its new chief executive, a German minister who served under Chancellor Merkel, Gerd Müller, did not respond to media inquiries from Fox News Digital. Müller was accused of racism during his tenure as German development minister.
Roth is not optimistic that Müller will address UNIDO’s alleged serious shortcomings and the regime’s pro-Iranian tilt.
“As for the work itself, it looks like Müller will follow in his predecessor’s footsteps at UNIDO. China’s Li Yong continued to fund Iranian projects every year during his eight-year tenure and clearly maintained good relations with Tehran,” Roth said. . “Since Germany nominated him as a candidate, Müller has given no indication that he fears dangerous technologies may fall into the hands of Iran via UNIDO. Nor has he hinted that existing programs would be reviewed.Given Germany’s poor record of selling dual-use technology to rogue regimes, one would hope that Müller – as Germany’s top minister – would be particularly determined to address these issues. .”
Earlier this week, Müller met with Rafael Mariano Grossi, his counterpart at the UN’s atomic agency, the IAEA. Fox News Digital asked for a reading of the meeting and whether Grossi raised any concerns about the issue of misuse of dual-use technology on the nuclear front regarding Iran and North Korea.
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A spokesperson referred Fox to a tweet posted by the IAEA where Grossi praised Müller and tweeted about areas where the two agencies are cooperating. But absent from the tweet, the IAEA’s response was the issue of dual-use technology falling into the hands of Iran and North Korea.