Sunday, September 11, 2005

Iran Threatens Consequences If Its Case Goes to U.N. Council

Nazila Fathi, The NY Times:
Iran said today that it would not suspend its nuclear activities and contended that there would be serious consequences if its case were sent to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions. The comments came as Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, prepared to travel to New York to address the United Nation General Assembly on Wednesday at its opening summit meeting. READ MORE

"There is no question of returning to a new suspension at Isfahan," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said today at his first news conference, referring to the city near which Iran has resumed uranium conversion activities.

"There is no legal basis to send the dossier to the Security Council," he said. "This would be a political move. We do not see a serious sign that this will happen."

He added, "It is natural that such an event will have consequences, but right now I do not want to go into what the repercussions would be."

Iran defied an agreement with Germany, France and Britain last month and resumed the uranium conversion. The European countries have pressed Iran for a permanent end to its nuclear activities, which the Europeans and the United States suspect are for making nuclear arms. Iran maintains that its program is for peaceful energy purposes. Iran also refused to comply with a demand last month from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear monitoring agency, to halt the program and said that making nuclear fuel was its right as a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The three European countries and the United States plan to press the atomic energy agency's board, at its next meeting, on Sept. 19, to forward the case to the Security Council.

Iran has adopted a tougher stance on its nuclear program under the new conservative president, who took office last month.

Analysts in Tehran say Iran's position is stronger than it was when the talks with Europe began.

Iranian officials say they have improved their nuclear technology in that time and that two years of intrusive inspections by the nuclear agency have not provided opponents with a "smoking gun."

Iran doubts that Europe and the United States will be able to get enough support among the 35 member states of the nuclear agency's board of governors to send Iran's case to the Security Council. Among other reasons, Iran is a major oil producer and sanctions would be likely to send oil prices even higher than at present.

"Iran is not bluffing over its nuclear program," said Nasser Hadian, a political analyst in Tehran. "They hope they can resolve the matter at the I.A.E.A. but they are prepared if their case is sent to the Security Council."

He added, "I hope the opportunity of resolving the matter through negotiations would not turn into a threat because the consequences would be unknown for everybody."

Iran has threatened to withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty and to bar inspectors from its nuclear sites if its case is sent to the Security Council.

"Referring the case to the Security Council would be a lose-lose game, and we would prefer that this game does not happen," Mr. Mottaki said today. "We see a win-win situation, that is where the E.U. and international community have confidence and the Islamic Republic of Iran reaches its legitimate right."

The new president has said that Iran favors continuing its negotiations with Europe. He is expected to announce his new proposal on Wednesday, when he addresses the General Assembly.

The chief of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, Ali Larijani, proposed widening negotiations beyond the three European countries to include members of the nonaligned bloc on the board, such as South Africa and Malaysia. Those countries have been more sympathetic to Iranian position and have resisted the decision to refer Iran's case to the Security Council.