Wednesday, April 12, 2006

No quick action on Iran seen in divided UN council

Iran's declaration that it has enriched its first batch of uranium is unlikely to spur the United Nations to act sooner than May on the question of Iran's nuclear ambitions, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Following Iran's announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the council, which last month called on Tehran to suspend all enrichment work, would need to take up the issue again.

But several council members said the U.N. body had agreed in a statement last month to wait for further action until International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei makes his report at the end of April.

"When we have this report, we will react," French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere told reporters.

Nor did the Iranian announcement convince all council members that it was time to take a tougher line on Tehran.

"I think people are still talking about diplomatic efforts," Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said when asked whether China felt it was now time for the council to step up its efforts on Iran.

Last month's council statement on Iran's nuclear work was nonbinding.

If ElBaradei reports at the end of the month that Iran has not complied with council demands, Western powers want the council to make the demand for suspension of all enrichment work binding under international law.

Russia and China to date have opposed this step under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, fearing this could lead later on to sanctions or provide a legal basis for military action.


Wang stressed it remained Beijing's view that diplomacy was the best way forward and said the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany planned to meet again soon "to discuss and take note of the situation."

Senior officials from these six nations have met periodically in recent months in search of a coordinated strategy on Iran, with mixed success.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack later said a meeting of the six would take place next week in Moscow. U.N. ambassadors from the six countries were meeting later on Wednesday in New York to confer on next steps, diplomats said. READ MORE

"I do hope the Iranians will take note of the reactions and be more cooperative with the IAEA and also with the Security Council," Wang said. Talk of sanctions or military steps "will not be helpful under the current circumstances," he added.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday dismissed as "wild speculation" media reports that Washington was planning for military strikes on Iran. He said force was not necessarily required to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in The Hague, urged all parties to "actively search for a diplomatic solution and to cool down the rhetoric and not to escalate."