Friday, March 10, 2006

West wants two-week deadline for Iran to stop nuclear fuel work

Yahoo News:

VIENNA (AFP) - The United States and Europe want the UN Security Council to give Iran a two-week deadline to halt nuclear work that could be weapons-related, according to a draft text for Council action obtained by AFP.

The draft, which was written by European states on the Security Council, marks the beginning of the process by Council members to agree on a presidential statement in what would be its first action against Iran's nuclear program, diplomats told AFP.

It does not mention sanctions, which diplomats said was never going to be the first Security Council measure, and expresses the "conviction that . . . a negotiated solution can be found that guarantees Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted Friday that the Iranian crisis must now go to the Security Council, rejecting a Russian call for international talks outside the world body.

Russia, a key trading partner of Iran, is trying to broker a compromise for Iran to enrich uranium on Russian soil in order to give it nuclear fuel but keep it from getting bomb technology.

Tehran however refuses to give up enriching uranium on its own.

The draft says the Security Council should "call upon Iran without delay: to re-establish full, sustained and verifiable suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing (for plutonium) activities."

It says the Vienna-based UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency should "report to the Council within 14 days on the implementation by Iran of the actions it has requested."

The 15-member Council is to meet next week in New York in response to Iran's defiance of the Vienna-based IAEA's call to suspend work on uranium enrichment, which Tehran resumed in February after having halted it in October 2003 as a confidence-building measure to show it does not seek nuclear weapons.

Enrichment makes fuel for nuclear power reactors but also, in highly refined form, the explosive core of atom bombs.

On Wednesday, the IAEA sent an assessment report on Iran's program, which the West fears is hiding a covert drive for the bomb, to the Council.

Unlike the IAEA, the Security Council has the authority to impose punitive measures such as sanctions.

It is, however, expected first to issue a nonbinding presidential statement calling Iran to order.

Titled "Draft elements for Security Council action on the Iranian nuclear program," the proposed text for the statement begins: "Security Council action is necessary to reinforce the authority of the IAEA."

A Western diplomat said the United States, Britain and France were expecting to receive reactions to their draft from the Russians and Chinese. The five nations are the permanent Council members, and have veto powers.

"We would want the Council to react rapidly, working closely to maintain a strong international consensus, and sharing views with partners," the draft said.

The IAEA has also called on Iran to fully cooperate with its three-year investigation of Iran's nuclear work, in which questions remain about Iran's development of the nuclear fuel cycle as well as research, projects and documents that could be related to making nuclear weapons.

The draft text calls on the Council to "express serious concern" about Iran's possession of a document on casting uranium metal into hemispheres as this part would be "suitable only for military purposes."

The draft restates IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's assertion in his report sent to the Council "that the IAEA is not in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran".

Furthermore, it says the Council should "agree that an extensive period of confidence building is required from Iran."

Confidence-building measures should include, according to the draft document, Iran's ceasing all nuclear fuel work, including making the centrifuges used in enrichment, and the converting of uranium ore into the uranium hexafluoride gas that is the feedstock used by centrifuges.

The Council is also urged to tell Iran "to halt the construction of a (plutonium-producing) heavy water reactor" which Iran is building at Araq. Plutonium is also an atom bomb material.

The Council should also call on Iran to ratify an Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that would give the IAEA wider inspection powers.

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