Sunday, September 04, 2005

EU Diplomats Give Iran 2 Weeks To Freeze Nuclear Work

Dow Jones Newswires:
European Union representatives warned Iran Saturday that it has less than two weeks to freeze any nuclear work that could be used to make an atomic weapon. Otherwise Iran faces being referred to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.

The E.U. representatives - diplomats from E.U. countries accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency - said talks will begin Monday in Vienna among members of the 35-nation IAEA board of governors with a goal of finding consensus on referral to the Security Council.

The likelihood of referral grew after an IAEA report revealed Friday that Tehran had pumped out about seven tons of the gas it needs for uranium enrichment since restarting the process last month.

And as a Sept. 19 IAEA board meeting grows closer, ministers - including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and E.U. counterparts from France, Germany and the U.K. - will likely get involved in drafting the language of a resolution demanding the Security Council deal with Iran's refusal to stop uranium conversion, a precursor to uranium enrichment, diplomats said.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the Iran game plan with the media, said Tehran still could avoid referral by reimposing a freeze on such activities before the board meeting.

That appeared unlikely, however.

Iranian state television on Friday cited Ali Larijani, Iran's point man on nuclear issues, as saying his country would "confine its cooperation with the IAEA (only) to IAEA regulations and to defined international agreements."

Iran argues that it is not breaking international law by carrying out activities linked to uranium enrichment.

But the report released Friday, revealed that the amount produced of uranium hexafluoride - the gaseous feed stock spun by centrifuges into enriched uranium - was enough, depending on the level of enrichment, to serve as the core of nuclear weapons.

The document, prepared by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, did not make a finding on whether Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapon, and Tehran insists its intentions are only to generate nuclear power.

But David Albright, a former IAEA nuclear inspector, said that were Tehran to use the material for weapons purposes, it would suffice for one atomic bomb.

After Iran resumed conversion last month, key European nations awaited the results of the ElBaradei report, setting Saturday as an informal deadline for Tehran to reimpose its freeze or face the threat of referral to Council.

Tehran last month rejected economic and other incentives offered by Britain, France and Germany - negotiating on behalf of the EU - and resumed conversion.

Iran argues that it has a right to enrichment for peaceful purposes.

The Europeans say Tehran broke its word by unilaterally resuming conversion while still negotiating with the European Three on ways to reduce international suspicions about its nuclear agenda.

Saturday, one of the Vienna-based diplomats said the European Union felt betrayed by Iran's move.

"The Iranians have destroyed the basis for dialogue," he said. READ MORE

If Iran is hauled before the Security Council, it could impose sanctions - although members China and Russia are believed to oppose such a move. At a minimum, the issue would attract world attention if debated by the U.N.'s top body.