AFP: Senior officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany were holding talks in London Monday regarding Iran’s resumption of controversial nuclear activities. LONDON, Jan 16, 2006 (AFP) – Senior officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany were holding talks in London Monday regarding Iran’s resumption of controversial nuclear activities.
Representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States were expected to discuss a date for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors, which could refer Iran to the UN Security Council.
A British Foreign Office spokeswoman refused to provide details about the meeting, which is taking place at the level of political directors, saying only that it was to discuss “next steps” regarding Iran.
Britain, France and Germany, which led drawn-out negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, said last week the talks were dead and called for UN referral after Tehran broke IAEA seals at three nuclear plants to resume uranium enrichment research.
Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear reactors, but if highly enriched it can also form the explosive core of an atomic bomb.
The United States suspects that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at building a nuclear weapon, a charge that Tehran has repeatedly denied.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, en route to Liberia, said she wanted to see the IAEA board convene “as soon as possible”.
“The problem with waiting for the regular meeting in March or waiting for a long time is that I think the Iranians will try to take advantage of it to start to throw chaff now and to obfuscate” on its nuclear intentions, she said.
Sources in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, told AFP last week that the EU troika hopes to use the London talks to convince China and Russia to back their calls for referral to the Security Council.
Both nations have growing trade and energy links with Iran.
Last September the EU and United States forced a motion through the IAEA’s board of governors calling for Iran’s referral to the Security Council.
But it was expressly not acted upon, in order to allow time for further talks and because there was no agreement with China and Russia on what action the UN should take.
Tehran has threatened to withhold cooperation with IAEA inspectors if it is referred to the Security Council, and warned it would not submit to any decisions imposed on it.
Russia, which has offered to let Iran enrich uranium on its territory as a possible solution to the crisis, has hinted it may not object to referral.
While pushing for Iran’s referral to the council, European leaders have said it is too early to begin talking about sanctions. They also stress that there is no talk of pre-emptive military action.
An emergency IAEA board meeting could be called before the end of the month, according to diplomats.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said he has been unable to determine whether Iran’s nuclear program, which was kept secret from the world for 18 years, was peaceful.
“For the last three years we have been doing intensive verification in Iran, and even after three years I am not yet in a position to make a judgment on the peaceful nature of the program,” he was quoted as saying in Newsweek magazine.
Speaking to a Spanish newspaper, Israeli President Moshe Katsav said his nation — the only nuclear power in the Middle East — would not allow a “totalitarian” Iran to have a nuclear capability.
“It would be the first step for atomic bombs to fall into the hands of terrorists of the (Shiite fundamentalist movement) Hezbollah, the (Islamist) Hamas or Al-Qaeda for example,” Katsav told the ABC daily.
“We don’t have a conflict of interest with Iran, we don’t have a common border but we cannot allow a totalitarian country which exports international terrorism to have a nuclear capability,” he said.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, in London for a conference on global terrorism, told the BBC that it would be “wise” to pursue diplomacy to defuse the crisis.
“We hope they don’t (acquire nuclear weapons). They promised they won’t, and we believe in their promise and we hold them to it,” he said.