Iran has said it would end voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its nuclear program if it were referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. The warning comes after France, Great Britain, and Germany called on 12 January for the IAEA to forward Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN body because Tehran has resumed nuclear-fuel research. The EU's call is backed by Washington.
Prague, 13 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki warned on 12 January that a referral of Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council would have negative consequences for the West.
"The Europeans should be aware that any move for sending Iran's case to the Security Council will oblige the government -- in conformity with the bill adopted by parliament -- to end it's voluntary cooperation with the [UN's International Atomic Energy] Agency," Mottaki said.
The Iranian parliament passed a bill in November requiring the government to "stop voluntary and non-legally-binding measures and implement its scientific, research, and executive programs," if referred to the UN Security Council. If implemented, an end to cooperation could include the cancellation of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) snap checks of Iran's nuclear facilities.
The nuclear crisis over Iran's nuclear program escalated on 10 January after Tehran removed UN seals from equipment at the Natanz facility to resume nuclear-fuel research.
The move was condemned and criticized by a number of countries including the United States, Russia, and the European Union. France, Britain and Germany, the so-called EU-3 that have been leading nuclear negotiations with Iran, said that the Iranian move is a rejection of more than two years of EU efforts.
Speaking at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, and EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana after crisis talks in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on 12 January, "Given Iran's disregarding of the IAEA's warnings and the inadequate cooperation of Iran with the IAEA regarding open questions, we believe the time has come to involve the UN Security Council."
Tehran, however, says it is still ready to negotiate with the EU countries. Foreign Minister Mottaki said that EU countries should differentiate between "nuclear research and the production of nuclear fuel." He said Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has the right to conduct research on producing uranium fuel.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also said on 12 January that Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told him during a phone conversation that the Iranians "are interested in serious and constructive negotiations but within a time frame." Iran and the three EU countries were due to meet on 18 January for the latest round in their talks
Iran says that it will enrich uranium on a small scale only for research purposes. But there is concern that the move could eventually lead to the development of nuclear weapons. Enriched uranium can be used for nuclear fuel or, at high levels of enrichment, for nuclear warheads.
On 12 January, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is no "peaceful rationale" for Iran to resume sensitive nuclear work and Tehran should be referred to the Security Council.
"The IAEA board of governors must go forward with a report to the UN Security Council so that the council can add its weight in support of the ongoing IAEA investigation. The council should call for the Iranian regime to step away from its nuclear weapons ambitions. The United States will encourage the Security Council to achieve this end," Rice said.
Rice talked of "a menu of possibilities" for diplomatic action against Iran and said the United States did not "at this point" have on its agenda the option of military action.
Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for nonproliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that a referral of Iran's nuclear case to the Security Council could include many stages. "They [members of the Security Council] can start with small steps, reinforcing the call on Iran to suspend its enrichment, targeted political sanctions, or other measures that fall short of military options," he said.
It is still not clear if Russia and China will support a referral of Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council. But both countries have criticized Iran's latest nuclear decision. Today, two Russian dailies, "Vremya novostei" and "Kommersant," reported that Russia has lost patience with Iran and that it will no longer back the country.
Representatives of the EU-3 are to meet counterparts from China, Russia, and the United States in London next week to discuss Iran's nuclear activities.
(Radio Farda correspondent Fariba Mavadat contributed to this report.)
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