By Paul Hughes
TEHRAN - Iran believes there is only a 10 percent chance the U.N. Security Council will impose economic sanctions on it if Washington succeeds in sending its nuclear case there, a senior security official said on Friday.
Hossein Mousavian, foreign policy committee secretary at the Supreme National Security Council, said Iran's past cooperation with U.N. inspectors and support from key non-Western states such as Russia and China would spare Iran.
"Iran has given reports on its nuclear activities, it has signed the additional protocol (on snap nuclear inspections) and has proved its commitments to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," the ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying.
"Therefore, even if Iran's case is sent to the Security Council, we are more than 90 percent sure no economic sanctions will be imposed on Iran because our nuclear activities have been peaceful."
The European Union has warned Tehran it would back U.S. calls to refer Iran to the Security Council if it did not agree to freeze all uranium enrichment activities before an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting on Nov. 25.
Iran, which denies pursuing nuclear arms and says it only wants to generate electricity, says it may freeze enrichment -- a process that can make bomb-grade material -- for a few months.
But the European Union wants a longer suspension and ultimately wants Tehran to scrap all atomic fuel cycle work, which it says it will never do.
Western diplomats in Tehran acknowledged that the failure of U.N. inspectors to find any "smoking gun" in Iran pointing to an atomic arms program made the likelihood of sanctions against Tehran unlikely in the short term.
"The most we could expect at first is a resolution calling on Iran to cooperate more or halt certain activities," one said.
RUSSIAN, CHINESE SUPPORT
EU and Iranian negotiators are due to meet again to try to hammer out a deal on uranium enrichment in Paris on Nov. 5.
"If Iran's case is sent to the Security Council, Russia, China and the non-aligned nations and many other countries know that Iran does not have an atom bomb to be punished for," Mousavian said.
Russia and China hold veto powers on the Security Council.
Russia has a $1 billion contract to build the Islamic state's first nuclear reactor. Tehran also secured a $70 billion oil and gas contract with energy-thirsty China this week -- the biggest energy deal ever between the countries.
Mousavian said Russian and Chinese officials had visited Iran recently and China's foreign minister may visit Iran soon.
"Iran's team of (nuclear) negotiators have spent about 70 percent of their time negotiating with countries such as Russia, China and non-aligned countries and have only spent 30 percent of their time negotiating with European countries," he said.
Security Council referral would be unwelcome.
"When a country's case is sent there it is viewed as a threat to international peace and security and Iran does not welcome that.
"If Iran's case is sent to the Security Council it is because we want to defend our rights ... Of course, we have to pay the price, but it will be more costly for the other side."