AFP: World powers united on Friday to seek a new UN censure of Iran's nuclear programme and demand that it halt construction of uranium enrichment site kept secret until recently. By Simon Morgan
VIENNA (AFP) — World powers united on Friday to seek a new UN censure of Iran's nuclear programme and demand that it halt construction of uranium enrichment site kept secret until recently.
Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China sponsored the new resolution against Iran to be voted by the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board of governors, diplomats said.
Diplomats predicted it would be approved with a substantial majority.
Western powers suspect Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its atomic drive is peaceful.
It would be the first time in nearly four years that the UN nuclear watchdog has passed a resolution against Iran. The vote also comes a day after the outgoing IAEA chief said that efforts to determine whether Iran's programme was peaceful had reached a "dead end".
In February 2006 the IAEA referred Tehran to the UN Security Council over its refusal to suspend enrichment and agree to full and complete inspections by the agency.
The support from Moscow and Beijing was seen as significant since they have been reluctant in the past to back tougher action against Iran.
They came on board following the revelation in September that Iran had been secretly building for the past two years a second uranium enrichment plant at Fordo, near the holy city of Qom.
Enriched uranium is at the heart of the West's concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme. Uranium is used to make fuel for nuclear power plants but also the fissile material for an atomic bomb.
Iran has been enriching uranium at a bigger plant in Natanz for several years, in defiance of UN sanctions to halt all such activity.
The new resolution text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, urges Iran to "suspend immediately" construction of the plant at Qom.
It calls upon Tehran to reveal the purpose of the plant and the chronology of its construction. It presses the Islamic Republic to "confirm … that (it) has not taken a decision to construct, or authorize construction of, any other nuclear facility which has as yet not been declared to the agency."
Iran made similar assurances to the IAEA in September 2008, only to admit a year later that it had been secretly building the facility at Qom since the second half of 2007.
The IAEA says it has satellite images of construction at the site as far back as 2002. Tehran insists that the original purpose of the plant was non-nuclear and so it was therefore under no obligation to declare it.
On Thursday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei — who steps down as director general next week after 12 years in office — criticised Iran for concealing the plant.
He complained that the agency's efforts to verify the peaceful nature of Iran's atomic programme had reached a "dead end".
German ambassador Ruediger Luedeking said the new resolution would "serve as a reminder and an encouragement for Iran to seize the existing opportunities to engage in meaningful negotiations with a view to achieving a comprehensive diplomatic solution.
"We extend a hand and appeal to Iran to take it."
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Tehran would reduce co-operation with the agency to "the minimum we are legally required" if the board passed the resolution.
"Any gesture or move jeopardising this cooperation … will be counterproductive," he told reporters Thursday.
Iranian TV quoted him as saying: "Western countries must not disturb the positive climate. They should rather allow the technical cooperation of Iran and the agency to follow its positive trend."