Iran warns against UN Security Council referral
31 January 2006, TEHRAN/VIENNA - Referring the Iranian nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council would mean the "end of diplomacy", Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned Tuesday.
31 January 2006
TEHRAN/VIENNA - Referring the Iranian nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council would mean the "end of diplomacy", Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned Tuesday.
"This is definitely not positive," Larijani told Khabar news network. "The Europeans should be more careful as they might start this process but they might not be the one to end it."
The referral is expected to be a foregone conclusion after it was resolved in London Monday evening by the five permanent members of the council - the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - as well as Germany, which along with Britain and France is a member of the EU negotiating trio with Iran.
The decision is a consequence of suspicions by the West that Iran is engaged in a secret nuclear weapons programme. Tehran insists, on the contrary, that its nuclear programme is exclusively aimed at generating electricity.
Larijani's comments came as the dispute about Iran's controversial nuclear programme was due to enter a new phase at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week after years of negotiations and behind-the-scenes diplomatic dealing.
On Thursday, the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors, the UN nuclear watchdog's top decision-making body, was discussing the Iran case and was due to vote on referring Tehran to the Security Council.
In a draft circulating in Vienna of the IAEA resolution proposed by the EU Trio since the beginning of January, the EU makes it clear in diplomatic language that it deeply mistrusts Iran's nuclear programme.
Tehran has only made "modest progress" since September 2005 in explaining its secret nuclear programme, the draft says.
The draft demands further that Iran stop all uranium enrichment and abandon its plans to build a hard-water reactor as such reactors produce plutonium which can be used to make nuclear weapons.
Iran warned that if it was referred to the UN Security Council, it would implement a parliamentary bill it passed last year and suspend all cooperation with the IAEA.
The suspension would encompass IAEA inspections and other issues relating to the nuclear watchdog's additional protocol that was introduced to ensure that no new countries acquired nuclear weapons.
Tehran has also warned several times of an oil crisis if sanctions were imposed against Iran as the fourth biggest oil producer in the world.
"It would be a disgrace for an organization like the IAEA to refer a member-country to the UN Security Council just because that country wants to avail itself of its right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology," Larijani added.
The chief nuclear negotiator once again stressed that "the doors for diplomacy are still open" and called on the Europeans not to choose a hostile but a wise approach to bring the nuclear dispute to an end.
"The West has no justification for the referral and considering the transparent Iranian cooperation with the IAEA, the Europeans will have legal problems to pursue the referral," Iranian Vice-President Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh told ISNA news agency earlier Tuesday.
In recent days, Tehran has allowed IAEA inspectors to visit sites it had previously barred them from, such as Lavisan military base, which Tehran speedily tore down shortly after admitting its nuclear programme in 2004.
Experts suspect that Tehran was secretly developing nuclear weapons in Lavisan.
Aqazadeh, who is also the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, however stressed Tuesday that negotiations still offered the best chance of resolving the issue, despite fruitless last-ditch talks between Iran and the EU Trio the previous day.
Iran has several times stressed that the recently restarted research programme differs from the uranium enrichment process, which Tehran says is still suspended.
Observers say that despite the big power agreement, the vote in the IAEA board is unlikely to be unanimous.
South Africa, Cuba, Malaysia and Venezuela have made it clear they support Tehran's attitude that it has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. All four states are part of the Nonaligned Movement, which presently has 16 countries on the IAEA board.
Last September, Venezuela was the only country to vote against an IAEA board resolution in principle allowing referral of the Iran case to the Security Council at a later stage. Twelve other states abstained, including Russia and China.
The September decision was the first IAEA vote on Iran. Previously, all motions had been passed unanimously by consensus and without a vote.
In the case of a renewed vote on Thursday, a simple majority of 18 states would be enough to send the case to New York.
The agreement in London came as a surprise to many observers. Shortly beforehand, Russia and China still appeared to doubt the use of bringing in the Security Council, which unlike the IAEA has the power to warn Iran or impose sanctions on it.
Moscow and Beijing both have extensive economic interests in Iran. Recently, Russia tried to settle the conflict by offering to enrich uranium for Iran in its own nuclear installations.
Tehran reacted with mixed signals, on the one hand showing interest, but on the other insisting on its right to carry out the process itself.
On Tuesday, Moscow seemed to be downplaying its agreement to refer the Iran case to the Security Council, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Troyanski saying the council would merely be "informed" about the IAEA special session, implying there would be no formal handover of the case.
Whatever happens, the Security Council is unlikely to take concrete steps against Tehran before March, if at all.
IAEA General Director Mohamed ElBaradei is first due to give the next regular IAEA board session on March 6 a further extensive report about Iran's nuclear activities.
Subject: German news