BRUSSELS - British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw voiced hope Monday for an accord to end a nuclear standoff with Iran, but reiterated the row could still end up in the UN Security Council if Tehran fails to comply.
Speaking ahead of a crunch meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog body this week, he said he hoped an accord reached between Iran and the European Union's so-called Euro three -- Britain, France and Germany -- would be formally approved.
"What we're looking forward to is a translation of that agreement into a text which is then agreed by consensus by the IAEA board of governors," he said, referring to talks Thursday at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"I hope very much that a way will be found as a result of these negotiations for Iran to come fully into compliance with its obligations," he added.
But he reiterated a warning that "if there is a failure by Iran to meet its obligations then Britain, and also Germany and France, reserve our collective right to refer the matter to the (UN) Security Council."
Iran agreed a week ago in a deal with the three EU states to suspend as of Monday all its uranium enrichment-related activities as a confidence-building measure in order to avoid being taken to the UN Security Council.
Iranian state television said Monday that Tehran was suspending uranium enrichment activities in accordance with the agreement.
On Thursday the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors is to discuss Iran's case. The Vienna-based body must verify the suspension if Iran is to escape the threat of sanctions, something the United States has been pushing for.
Washington accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Tehran.
Straw, speaking on arrival at a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, added the Europeans have sought for the last 16 months to resolve the issue within the framework of the IAEA.
But he said: "If of course we are unable to do that, then that (going to the UN Security Council) remains an option."
Iran had already frozen the actual enrichment process since October 2003, but had pressed on with work on other parts of the fuel cycle -- including converting raw uranium into the gas fed into centrifuges and making the centrifuges themselves.
The Islamic republic insists it only wants to enrich uranium to low levels, so as to become self-sufficient in producing fuel for a series of atomic energy reactors it plans to build in the future.
But Western officials have suggested that once it has mastered the fuel cycle, Iran could divert its programme towards making highly enriched uranium -- the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.
In Vienna Monday the IAEA said it should be able to verify Iran's announced suspension of uranium enrichment activity before the agency's board meeting on Thursday.
"Hopefully by Thursday I should be able to report that we've verified the suspension," its chief Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters.