Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Iran threatens retaliation as UN showdown nears

Hossein Jasseb, Reuters:
Iran on Monday threatened to restart uranium enrichment and to stop allowing U.N. snap inspections of its atomic facilities, if moves to send it to the U.N. Security Council were not reversed.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Saturday passed a resolution requiring that Tehran be reported to the council for possible sanctions, after Iran failed to convince the world its atomic ambitions were entirely peaceful.

"Unless the resolution is corrected or if its implementation is insisted upon, Iran will be forced to cancel all its voluntary and temporary measures including implementation of the Additional Protocol," said a foreign ministry statement, read out on Iranian state television. READ MORE

The Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allows short-notice intrusive checks of atomic facilities by U.N. weapons inspectors.

Foremost among Iran's voluntary measures is the suspension of uranium enrichment, a process it has already threatened to restart if sent to New York.

Washington has accused Iran of developing its uranium enrichment program for nuclear warheads, but Tehran insists it needs it only to make fuel for power stations.

On Friday, Iran's IAEA delegation showed some board members two letters saying Iran would begin enriching uranium and end snap inspections if the resolution were passed.

Earlier in the day, Iranian Vice-President Gholamreza Aghazadeh had condemned the IAEA resolution but had stopped short of making any threats, which diplomats had expected.

"This resolution is based on an invalid legal precept, an unjustified technical ground and a misguided political forecast," Aghazadeh told the IAEA's General Conference.


The IAEA board resolution requires that Iran be referred to the Security Council at an unspecified date.

EU diplomats said they expected the board would decide to send its report on Iran's nuclear NPT breaches to the U.N. Security Council during the agency's next board of governors' meeting in November.

Aghazadeh said his country needed to see European goodwill.

"We need to be convinced of Europe's intention to reverse the dangerous path of confrontation and see their firm willingness to work ... toward an arrangement on our nuclear fuel cycle program," he said.

Talks between the European Union and Iran collapsed in August after Tehran rejected a package of political and economic incentives aimed at convincing it to scrap enrichment and other activities that could make bombs.

It then restarted uranium conversion, the step before enrichment, prompting the U.S.-backed diplomatic push by France, Britain and Germany that resulted in the resolution.

Conversion and enrichment were suspended under a November deal with the Europeans. Enrichment remains under suspension, though Iran has often said that will not last forever.

The EU said it was up to Iran to return to its suspension and cooperate fully with the IAEA for talks to resume.

"We ... welcome the adoption by the board of the resolution on September 24 and urge Iran to implement the confidence-building measures set out in that resolution to enable the resumption of negotiations," Britain's governor on the IAEA board, Rob Wright, said on behalf of the EU.

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna and Louis Charbonneau in Berlin)