The Times: Iran and the European Union were yesterday locked in a fierce public dispute over Tehrans nuclear ambitions, which threatened to plunge the regime into open conflict with the international community. The Times
Britain, France and Germany will lobby atomic agency to refer Tehran to the UN over breaches
By Richard Beeston
Iran and the European Union were yesterday locked in a fierce public dispute over Tehrans nuclear ambitions, which threatened to plunge the regime into open conflict with the international community.
After months of delicate diplomacy, Britain, France and Germany signalled that they had had enough of Irans failures and breaches and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer the country to the UN Security Council, where it could face economic sanctions and other penalties. Iran hit back immediately, threatening to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and go back on other commitments made to the IAEA. It also gave warning warned that it would use its oil exports as a weapon against countries that did not support its case. The row unfolded as the 35 member states of the IAEA met in Vienna with Western nations supporting a tough stand against Iran, which still has backing among a handful of developing nations and Russia.
Iran insists that it has every right to build a civilian nuclear industry to generate power, but experts fear that the programme is a cover for a secret plan to assemble an atomic bomb. The matter came to a head last month when Iran broke its undertakings to freeze work on a nuclear fuel cycle, which could be diverted to produce weapons grade uranium. An EU offer to provide nuclear fuel from abroad was rejected. Any hopes that Tehran might be willing to compromise were dashed with an anti-Western speech by the hardline President Ahmadinejad in his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly on Saturday.
The Europeans, who have been trying for two years to resolve the issue, circulated a draft resolution yesterday that would refer the case to the Security Council. The draft asked the IAEA to report to all members of the Agency and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nation . . . Irans many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement.
The resolution, called Iran: Elements for an IAEA board resolution, cited the history of concealment of Irans nuclear activities as one of the reasons the Security Council now needed to take up the matter.
Ali Larijani, Irans top nuclear negotiator, gave warning that his country would retaliate if its case was referred to the Security Council. If you want to use the language of force, Iran will be left with no choice, in order to preserve its technical achievements, to get out of the framework of the NPT and out of the framework of the additional protocol, and resume enrichment, he said in Tehran.
That threat means that Iran would withdraw from the main nuclear arms control pact it signed in 1968 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The additional protocol allows IAEA inspectors to visit Iranian nuclear sites at short notice. Resuming enrichment, which Iran had been conducting in secret at its Natanz plant, would be particularly worrying since enriched uranium can be used as a nuclear fuel or as the core of atomic warhead.
Western officials gave warning that it was too early to say how the atomic energy authority would respond to the resolution. While about 20 countries are in favour of referring Iran to the Security Council, others would like Iran to be given another chance. There was even a possibility that the IAEA members would decide to shelve the resolution until a later meeting.
Silvan Shalom, the Israeli Foreign Minister, said: The international community must rally as one and use all the means at its disposal to stop Iran, before it goes nuclear.
Earlier he claimed that Iran could be as little as six months away from mastering the technology needed to build an atomic bomb eventually.