Saturday, February 04, 2006

Iran Referred to UN Security Council

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has voted 27 to three to report Iran to the UN Security Council over its resumption of nuclear activities. Teheran immediately reacted to the vote, saying it would curb UN inspections of its nuclear plants and pursue full-scale uranium enrichment.

Today's decision by the board of the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) marks a significant step on the road towards possible economic and political sanctions against Iran.

But no further action is expected until March, when Mohamed El Baradei, the IAEA chief, delivers a formal report on his inspectors' inquiries in Iran to the Security Council.

This delay is understood to have been a condition imposed by two of the Security Council members - China and Russia - in return for their support for referral, which they had previously opposed.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that the IAEA vote showed "the international community's determination to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East".

He said the vote in Vienna gave Iran several weeks to defuse the crisis by suspending uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. If they failed to do so, action by the Security Council would be "almost inevitable", he warned.

Tehran insists that the uranium enrichment activities which it restarted in December in breach of its international obligations is part of a civil nuclear energy programme.

But there are widespread concerns that Iran is seeking to develop a military nuclear capability.

Javed Vaeidi, deputy Iranian nuclear negotiator, said that Iran would stop honouring an agreement with the IAEA allowing its inspectors broad powers to monitor and probe Tehran's nuclear activities.

Twenty-seven IAEA members voted in favour of referral. Only three nations — Cuba, Syria and Venezuela — voted against. Five others — Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa — abstained. READ MORE