New York Times: Iran’s foreign minister warned Sunday of serious consequences if its repeated refusal to suspend sensitive nuclear activities prompted Western nations to submit the case to the United Nations Security Council to consider possible penalties. New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN – Iran’s foreign minister warned Sunday of serious consequences if its repeated refusal to suspend sensitive nuclear activities prompted Western nations to submit the case to the United Nations Security Council to consider possible penalties.
The comments came as Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, prepared to travel to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
“There is no question of returning to a new suspension at Isfahan,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Sunday, referring to the city where a plant has resumed uranium conversion, the first step in the nuclear-fuel production process.
“There is no legal basis to send the dossier to the Security Council,” Mr. Mottaki said in his first news conference as foreign minister. “This would be a political move. We do not see a serious sign that this will happen.”
He added, “It is natural that such an event will have consequences, but right now I do not want to go into what the repercussions would be.”
Iran defied an agreement with Germany, France and Britain last month and resumed the uranium conversion. Iran began talks with the three countries, which also represent Europe, two years ago. The Europeans have pressed Iran for a permanent end to its nuclear activities, which Europe and the United States suspect are intended to make nuclear arms. Iran says its program is for peaceful energy purposes.
Iran also refused to comply with a demand last month from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency, to halt the program and said making nuclear fuel for civilian purposes was its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The three European countries and the United States plan to urge the atomic energy agency’s board, at its next meeting, on Sept. 19, to forward the case to the Security Council.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the United States and its European partners continued to demand that Iran suspend its nuclear activities or face the prospect of having the matter referred to the Security Council. Iran’s statement on Sunday sets the stage for a possible confrontation at the United Nations.
Iran has adopted a tougher stance on its nuclear program under Mr. Ahmadinejad, the conservative president who took office last month.
Political analysts in Tehran say Iran’s position is stronger than it was when the talks with Europe began.
Iranian officials say that they have improved their nuclear technology since then and that two years of intrusive inspections by the nuclear agency have not provided opponents of Iran’s nuclear program with a “smoking gun.”
Some Western diplomats concede that the atomic energy agency has not reported any “smoking gun” evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, but they cite the agency’s conclusion that Iran has failed to disclose everything about its nuclear activities as evidence of its bad faith, and they call that a basis for taking the case to the Security Council.
Iranian officials say they doubt that Europe and the United States will be able to get enough support from among the 35 member states of the nuclear agency’s board of governors to send the case to the Security Council. Iran is a major oil producer, and sanctions against it could cause oil prices to rise even higher.
“Iran is not bluffing over its nuclear program,” said Nasser Hadian, a political analyst in Tehran. “They hope they can resolve the matter at the I.A.E.A. but they are prepared if their case is sent to the Security Council.”
He added, “I hope the opportunity of resolving the matter through negotiations would not turn into a threat, because the consequences would be unknown for everybody.”
Iran has threatened to withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty and bar inspectors from its nuclear sites if its case is sent to the Security Council.
“Referring the case to the Security Council would be a lose-lose game, and we would prefer that this game does not happen,” Mr. Mottaki, the foreign minister, said Sunday. “We see a win-win situation that is where the E.U. and international community have confidence and the Islamic Republic of Iran reaches its legitimate right.”
President Ahmadinejad has said that Iran favors continuing its negotiations with Europe. He is expected to announce his new proposal on Wednesday, when he addresses the General Assembly.
The chief of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, Ali Larijani, proposed widening negotiations beyond the three European countries to include members of the nonaligned bloc on the board, like South Africa and Malaysia. Those countries have been more sympathetic to the Iranian position and have resisted the effort to refer Iran’s case to the Security Council. Western diplomats have indicated that they would reject such a proposal.
Steven R. Weisman contributed reporting from Washington for this article.