Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blair Says Major Powers United on Iran

Georgina Cooper, Reuters:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Tuesday world powers had sent a strong signal to Iran by agreeing to involve the U.N. Security Council in the simmering dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. Blair said international concern about Iran was heightened by recent comments from its president and "the fact that people know Iran is sponsoring and supporting terrorism in different parts of the world."

"I hope it's sending a message that the international community is united," Blair told Reuters Television.

"This is going to be discussed and decided upon by the U.N. Security Council. That is a very important step. We couldn't get agreement on that before, we've got agreement on it now."

The U.N. Security Council's five permanent members agreed on Tuesday that the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog should report to the Council on what Iran must do to cooperate with the agency.

Iran replied that any such move would kill off diplomatic efforts to end its nuclear standoff with the West, which fears Tehran is trying to build the bomb. Iran denies this.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has caused international outrage by publicly doubting the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Britain has also accused Iran and Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas of supplying militants in Iraq with the techniques for making armor piercing bombs used to kill British troops there, a charge Iran has denied.

"Iran faces a very clear choice," said Blair. "It can either come into compliance with its international obligations or the international community is going to become increasingly concerned about Iran and the direction of its policy." READ MORE

However, Russia and China are opposed to any hasty action and the agreement struck in London on Tuesday has delayed any decision on the formal referral of Iran to the council, where it could face sanctions, until after a scheduled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting on March 6.

"The fact that it's reported rather than referred simply means that the IAEA will continue to be involved," Blair said.

"The important thing now is that the U.N. Security Council are seized of it. They will discuss it and decide on it and they came to that view on an agreed basis," he said.

(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers)