Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Russia rejects reporting Iran to Security Council

Stefan Wagstyl in Moscow and Roula Khalaf in London, Financial Times:
Russia on Monday ruled out an early decision to report the Iran nuclear controversy to the United Nations Security Council, undermining US and European efforts to build international consensus for a diplomatic reprimand this month.

A senior Kremlin official said Iran had not violated the rules of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Its nuclear programme, he said, should continue to be dealt with at the governing board of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, without involving the Security Council.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, adopted a more cautious approach in a meeting with foreign journalists and academics. He did not exclude a future referral to New York, though not at this point, and said it would have be done “in a very precise form. READ MORE

The international divisions over Iran surfaced as the US and Europe launched a diplomatic campaign to step up the diplomatic pressure on Tehran when the governing board of the IAEA meets on September 19. The IAEA has been investigating Iran’s nuclear programme for the past two years without reaching a conclusion on Tehran’s intentions.

Until recently European governments had been reluctant to escalate the dispute and involve the Security Council, which would raise the diplomatic stakes. But they joined the US in calling for a referral after talks between Tehran and the so-called EU3 – the UK, France and Germany – broke down last month. The talks were aimed at persuading Tehran to give up all activities related to the enrichment of uranium, which produces the fuel for nuclear reactors or atomic bombs.

The negotiations collapsed after Iran rejected a European proposal and resumed the production of uranium hexafluoride, a nuclear feedstock, at a plant in Isfahan – a process it had agreed to suspend.

European diplomats insist they would not seek economic sanctions against Iran at the UN but are looking for a Security Council statement that would encourage Tehran to resume the suspension of the Isfahan plant.

Diplomats acknowledge they face an uphill battle to win the support of Russia and China. Both [Russia and China] are reserved and cautious at this stage and seeking to know what will happen in the Council,” said a European diplomat.

The US and Europe could secure a vote at the IAEA through a simple majority. But their aim is to win a broad consensus, particularly including the support of Russia and China. The two countries are permanent members of the Security Council, with veto power, so forcing the dispute to New York without their approval could produce deadlock rather than stronger diplomatic action.