Monday, January 09, 2006

Five Nuclear Powers Send Messages to Iran

Sue Pleming, Voice of America:
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have sent strong messages to Iran to halt plans for nuclear fuel research and resume talks with European powers, said a senior U.S. official. A senior State Department official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said on Monday the so-called P5 -- Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China -- had sent separate notes to Tehran in recent days over its plans to resume research on nuclear fuel.

The United States had been looking for a strong joint statement but finally settled on separate statements with the same message -- that Iran should not resume nuclear fuel research.

"We have worked closely with the Russians, the Chinese, the French, the British and others," said the State Department official, adding, "The Iranians have received these messages." READ MORE

In addition, the world's five nuclear powers also urged Iran to return to "serious negotiations" with the so-called European Union-3, Britain, France and Germany, which have spearheaded talks with Iran over its nuclear plans.

Iran confirmed on Monday it would resume research on nuclear fuel, a move diplomats have said would prompt a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board, which would then call an emergency meeting.

That meeting could decide determine whether Iran would be referred to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said it is a matter of time before Iran is referred to the council and Washington is optimistic it has enough support in that body for tough action.

Iran says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity and denies Western accusations it is seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian program.

For two years, Washington has threatened elevating Iran's case to the Security Council but delayed forcing a showdown as other strategies were tried. Support from countries including Russia has also been lacking.

Moscow has tried to ease tensions by proposing a joint venture with Iran to enrich uranium in Russia but Iranian officials have described that proposal as unacceptable.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Iran must honour its international agreements to freeze uranium enrichment or face referral to the Security Council.

"This is an issue of trust," McClellan said. "The international community is making it clear that if they don't come into compliance and adhere to their obligations that the next step would be referral to the Security Council."

McClellan said Tehran needed to abide by all its international obligations, including the Paris agreement of November 2004 in which Iran agreed to freeze its enrichment program while in talks with the EU-3.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Wilson at the White House)