Wednesday, March 08, 2006

UN Security Council Said to Meet Next Week on Iran

Mark Heinrich and Parisa Hafezi, Reuters:
The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet on Iran next week, a senior EU diplomat said on Wednesday as nuclear watchdog governors met to debate a report on the Iranian nuclear drive that Tehran called "politicized". READ MORE

Council intervention over suspicions Iran secretly seeks atomic bombs appeared inevitable after Tehran brushed aside a reported Russian offer to allow limited nuclear research if it swore off industrial fuel production for 7-9 years.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors reported Iran to the council a month ago and called on it to shelve uranium-enrichment work and stop stonewalling IAEA investigations into the nature of its nuclear program.

But the report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei given to this week's board session said Tehran had generally flouted the February 4 appeal by expanding a pilot enrichment drive, inviting Council intervention that could lead to consideration of sanctions.

The senior diplomat from the EU trio of powers Britain, France and German said the impasse in their and Russian efforts to resolve the crisis by diplomacy with Iran meant the council was expected to begin deliberations next week.

Asking not to be further identified due to the subject's sensitivity, he said the council would work quickly to issue a "presidential statement" calling on Iran to suspend all atomic fuel enrichment activity and fully cooperate with U.N. investigations into the nature of its atomic ambitions.

If Iran defies the call, the council could repeat its message with a possible threat of action if it were unheeded.

But the council's sanctions option looks further off since veto-wielding Russia and China, while sharing Western resolve to deny Iran nuclear technology of potential use for warheads, now oppose isolating Iran where both have major trade stakes.

The diplomat added that at this point, the active involvement of the Security Council was necessary and inevitable since "there is no sign that the Iranians want to compromise".

The United States and "EU3" also rebuffed the Russian proposal floated informally in private consultations because they said it would not have prevented Iran perfecting bomb technology via enrichment research.


Stung by the rejection of its trial balloon after private discussions with Western leaders about the matter were leaked to news media, Moscow then publicly closed ranks with Washington and the EU3 by declaring it had not drafted any new plan.

Iran says its nuclear program aims solely at generating electricity for a growing economy. However, it concealed atomic research from the IAEA for 18 years and its calls for Israel's destruction have rung alarm bells in the West.

But Iran insists on a right to a peaceful atomic industry as a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has charged that the IAEA's resort to the Security Council was driven by a U.S.-led agenda to isolate and topple its Islamist government.

"The purely technical nuclear issue of the Islamic Republic of Iran is politicized," the Iranian government said in a statement on ElBaradei's report released just before Wednesday's debate started.

"Bias, exaggerated and unjustified information has misled the international community," the statement said.

It added that Iran had bent over backwards to cooperate with IAEA inquiries over the past three years, providing "voluminous information", granting access to military sites and arranging interviews even though such steps were not required by the NPT.

ElBaradei said Iran's compliance with probes remained selective. He gave examples where it withheld documents, denied access to people the IAEA wanted to query and failed to clarify allegations of military links to nuclear research.

An EU statement to be delivered to Wednesday's IAEA board session repeated that Iran must halt all nuclear research shortly or face Council pressure to do so.

Iran's decision to curb IAEA inspections after the board notified the council last month heightened suspicions about Iranian goals, said the statement from Austria, current head of the rotating EU presidency.

The EU statement ruled out even low-scale research with centrifuges, machines which convert uranium UF6 gas into fuel suitable for nuclear power reactors or, if enriched to high levels, the fissile core of nuclear warheads.

"Key questions remain unanswered ... (and) could have a military dimension, such as a document related to the fabrication of nuclear weapons components," it said. Iran showed inspectors the document, saying nuclear black marketeers provided it unsolicited, but refused to let the IAEA copy it.