Saturday, April 29, 2006

Iran Fails to Meet Nuclear Demands, U.N. Says

Carla Anne Robbins, The Wall Street Journal:
A new United Nations report says Iran is defying demands that it halt sensitive nuclear activities and allay suspicions about its suspected weapons ambitions, but any serious discussion of international sanctions may still be months away. Text of the April 28 IAEA report.

Nervousness about the brewing crisis drove crude-oil-futures prices up 91 cents Friday to $71.88 a barrel.

U.S. and European officials said they now would press the U.N. Security Council to swiftly pass a Chapter VII resolution, citing Iran's actions as "a threat to international peace and security" and making its compliance mandatory. But officials said that, to avoid near-certain vetoes from Russia and China, the resolution wouldn't threaten Iran with any immediate punishment. READ MORE

"Neither China nor Russia wants" Iran to develop a nuclear capability, "but they're not at the point of agreeing to sanctions," Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph said in an interview Friday. "That's clearly where we need to move this."

Mr. Joseph said that, in addition to the coming push at the Security Council, the U.S. is urging countries and companies to reduce trade and investment in Iran.

Top officials from the Security Council's permanent members -- the U.S., France, Britain, Russia and China -- plus Germany will meet Tuesday in Paris to discuss Iran's actions. And U.S. officials said they hope to have a draft of a Chapter VII resolution ready for the council to consider before the end of the coming week.

Iranian officials appear to be counting on the protection of key trading partners, including Moscow and Beijing. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Friday that "the Iranian nation won't give a damn about such useless resolutions." President Bush, meanwhile, sounded more soothing -- perhaps in the hope of wooing support from Russia and China -- saying that, while the world is "united and concerned" about Iran's "desire" for a nuclear weapon, "the diplomatic options are just beginning."

The Security Council had set Friday as a deadline for Iran to suspend production of enriched uranium -- usable for nuclear fuel or potentially a nuclear weapon -- and directed the International Atomic Energy Agency to report on Tehran's behavior.

The confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, says IAEA testing "tends to confirm" Iran's claim that it has successfully enriched small amounts of uranium to levels useful for nuclear fuel, a technically challenging feat that once fully mastered could also allow Iran to produce weapons-grade uranium. The report says Iran is already operating a single assembly -- known as a cascade -- of 164 centrifuges and is constructing two more cascades of the same size. Outside experts estimate Iran would need to run 1,500 centrifuges continuously for nearly a year to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb.

The report also notes that Iran has sharply curtailed cooperation with U.N. inspectors in recent weeks and still refuses to answer questions about its past activities, including what technology it purchased from a Pakistani-run black market and what role Iran's military might be playing in what Tehran insists is solely a civilian power program. And it adds one new mystery, suggesting Iran may not be telling the truth about how it acquired small amounts of plutonium.

Iran's ambassador to the U.N., Javad Zarif, told reporters on Thursday that, even if the Security Council passes a binding Chapter VII resolution, Iran will refuse to comply. He said decisions on Iran's nuclear activities "are not within" the council's "competence."

Write to Carla Anne Robbins at