Wednesday, September 28, 2005

West warns of action on Iran; Teheran threatens reprisals

Monday Morning:

Iran issued its toughest warning yet in response to Western pressure over its nuclear program, threatening to limit UN inspections, resume ultra-sensitive fuel work and even quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, also said Teheran would base its business dealings with individual countries on whose side they took in the dispute.

A Western diplomat in Vienna said: “It’s unfortunate that while we’re committed to pursuing this issue on a peaceful diplomatic track, Iran’s response is to resort to threats and provocations.”

Britain, France and Germany last week distributed a draft resolution titled “Iran: Elements for an IAEA Board Resolution” to members of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors, which was meeting in Vienna last week.

The European trio and the United States are calling for Iran to be reported to the Security Council over potentially weapons-related nuclear fuel work and threaten to push for a vote if consensus at the 35-nation board can not be achieved, diplomats said.

But a senior European diplomat said that while the Europeans were presenting a strong front, compromise was not “excluded”, especially if time were needed to get Russia, which has veto power on the council, on board.

Russia is building Iran’s first nuclear power reactor in a one-billion-dollar business deal but it also has said it is against Iran getting nuclear weapons.Iran has warned of a “radicalization” of its position if the UN’s nuclear monitoring group refers the issue to the Security Council.

Diplomats said the draft resolution could be put off for consideration until a special meeting to be called in a few weeks, thus setting a deadline for Iran to halt the nuclear fuel work.

In any case, the resolution contains some of the toughest language against Iran in the two-and-a-half years that the IAEA has been investigating the country on American charges that it is using an allegedly peaceful nuclear program to hide covert weapons work.

Iran’s co-operation with the IAEA investigation has been “marked by extensive concealment, misleading information and delays in access to nuclear material and facilities,” the draft said.

That behavior “has resulted in many breaches of its obligations to comply with its safeguards agreement.”

The draft asks the Security Council “as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” to call on Iran to “re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related... and reprocessing activity.”

Enriched uranium can be fuel for nuclear power reactors but also the raw material for atom bombs.

The Security Council could use measures far short of sanctions, such as a statement urging Iranian compliance, to try to get Iran to stop nuclear fuel activities and to answer IAEA questions.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted in a speech to the UN General Assembly that Iran would not cease uranium conversion it had resumed in August.

The IAEA had in August called on Iran to cease the fuel work.

Conversion is the first step in making enriched uranium.In London, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stressed that the international community would not go down a military path to solve the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program, In interviews with the BBC, Straw described as “disappointing and unhelpful” Ahmadinejad’s address to the United Nations General Assembly.

“This [stand-off] will not be resolved by military means, let’s be clear about that,” Straw told BBC radio.

“It needs to be resolved by all facilities available to the international community, that is what we have been working on and continue to work on.”

The foreign secretary was reacting to Iran’s latest proposals to end an impasse over its nuclear program, which the United States suspects is a cover for weapons development, and thwart a move toward possible UN sanctions.

Ahmadinejad outlined four proposals to the UN, including an offer to “engage in serious partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of the uranium-enrichment program in Iran”.

But Straw said Teheran’s offer “fails properly to add up”.Straw told BBC television there had yet to be a “satisfactory answer” explaining wh

y Iran needed to develop nuclear fuel technology when there was no power station for its civilian use.

Iran says its nuclear program is legal and restricted to civilian energy aims, a position backed by Russia, China and other countries.


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