Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Iran Strikes Back at Big Five Decision

Ali Akbar Dareini, Yahoo News:
Iran struck back Tuesday at the Big Five's decision to refer the country's nuclear file to the Security Council, saying the move has no legal justification and would be the end of diplomacy.

At a London meeting that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday, envoys of the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia agreed to recommend that the International Atomic Energy Agency report Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

They also decided the Security Council should wait until March to take up Iran's nuclear file after a formal report on Tehran's activities from the U.N. agency, which meets Thursday in Vienna.

"Reporting Iran's dossier to the U.N. Security Council will be unconstructive and the end of diplomacy," said Iran's leading nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. State television quoted him as sayiny Iran still believes the issue can be resolved peacefully. READ MORE

Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also runs Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said it was difficult to predict how the IAEA meeting on Thursday would develop, the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency reported.

"The biggest problem for the West is that they can't find any (legal) justification to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council," ISNA quoted him as saying.

Larijani also reproached Europe for the London decision, which was taken at the home of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and attended by the foreign minister of Germany and the foreign policy chief of the European Union.

"Europeans should pay more attention. Iran has called for dialogue and is moving in the direction of reaching an agreement through peaceful means," Larijani said.

Hours earlier, British, French and German representatives had met Larijani's deputy, Javad Vaedi, in Brussels for last-ditch talks on the dispute, but failed to make any progress.

Last week, Larijani flew to Moscow and Beijing to seek Russian and Chinese support against the Western drive to refer Iran to the Security Council.

The decision by Russia and China to vote for referral surprised observers as the two nations have consistently counselled caution on Iran's nuclear file. Both have major economic ties with Iran.

A French government official, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, said the Russian and Chinese ministers had been persuaded of the need to show a united front.

The United States accuses Iran of trying to build atomic weapons. Iran denies this, saying its nuclear program is only for generating electricity.

Iran broke IAEA seals at a uranium enrichment plant Jan. 10 and resumed small-scale enrichment. The decision provoked an outcry as enrichment is a process that can produce material for nuclear reactors or bombs. Britain, France and Germany, who had been negotiating with Iran, said they would press the IAEA to refer the matter to the Security Council.

If the IAEA votes to refer Iran to the Security Council on Thursday, Iran is likely to retaliate immediately.

Iran's parliament has approved a law requiring the government to stop all voluntary cooperation with IAEA in the event of referral. This would mean that Iran stops allowing IAEA inspectors to carry out intrusive searches of its facilities and the country resumes large-scale enrichment of uranium.

Iran insists it has the right as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to build nuclear power stations and produce their fuel by enriching its own uranium.

But the United States and Europe do not trust that Iran would enrich uranium only for peaceful purposes because the country has concealed significant aspects of its nuclear program in the past.

While the IAEA has said it has found no evidence of Iran's building nuclear weapons, it has refused to give Iran a clean bill of health because of numerous unanswered questions over its atomic program.