Reuters: Delaying action against Iran’s suspected nuclear capabilities allows Tehran to increase its uranium enrichment knowledge and step up threats of withholding oil, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Friday. By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Delaying action against Iran’s suspected nuclear capabilities allows Tehran to increase its uranium enrichment knowledge and step up threats of withholding oil, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Friday.
In a compromise reached February 4, countries on the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency called for the Iranian controversy to be referred to the U.N. Security Council by March 6.
Bolton, this month’s council president and a longtime critic of Iran’s nuclear activities, was asked about the significance of a one- or two-month delay in taking action.
“It allows them to increase the sophistication and extent of their knowledge about enrichment activities,” he said. “And it gives them time to make use of the oil weapon, which they have with a number of countries that have high and growing energy demands.”
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is to report to the council in March on Iran’s response to demands that it suspend its enrichment activities and cooperate with the agency.
Iran and Russia plan talks on Monday on Moscow’s proposal to enrich uranium on Iran’s behalf, thereby helping to alleviate fears that Tehran was trying to divert atomic fuel for bomb-making.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the talks and said if the crisis is not resolved, it will have “negative consequences for regional and international security and for the future of the nuclear nonproliferation regime itself.”
He said he expected Tehran would use the Moscow talks “to take the necessary steps to rebuild confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
The Security Council probably will not have the votes to impose severe sanctions on Iran but could take lesser steps, such as a diplomatic embargo or strengthening the inspection powers of the IAEA.
Nevertheless, Iran has struggled against a council referral, presumably because it would give it a pariah status.
Bolton said the United States and European negotiators were contemplating a number of steps he did not disclose.
This week, Iran restarted work at its pilot enrichment plant at Natanz after a 2 1/2-year suspension. Natanz is 100 feet (30 metres) underground and encased in concrete.
Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, also recently questioned Iran’s motives, saying its aims to seek self-reliance in nuclear fuel could “hardly be economic.”
“Sweden, which has 10 nuclear power reactors, finds it more economic to import low enriched uranium than to do the enrichment itself,” he wrote in the online magazine Maxim.