US, Europe voice alarm at Iran's nuclear moves
10 January 2006, BRUSSELS - The United States and European Union governments Tuesday voiced alarm at Iran's resumption of nuclear research activity, with senior E.U. diplomats warning the move would have serious consequences for Tehran.
10 January 2006
BRUSSELS - The United States and European Union governments Tuesday voiced alarm at Iran's resumption of nuclear research activity, with senior E.U. diplomats warning the move would have serious consequences for Tehran.
As a spokeswoman for the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran had broken a seal at the nuclear facility near Natanz in defiance of international pressure, officials on both sides of the Atlantic said they were consulting closely to decide on the next steps in the long-standing row with Iran.
A later IAEA statement said that Iran was also in the process of breaking the seals at two further nuclear facilities in Pars Trash and Farayand Technique, related to storage and testing.
An emergency meeting of the IAEA board of governors is expected to be called shortly to decide on Iran's referral to the United Nations Security Council, a first step in possible international sanctions against the country.
Foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, which are leading a two-year old diplomatic effort to defuse the nuclear dispute, said they were planning to hold emergency talks in Berlin on January 12 to decide on future moves.
U.S. ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte denounced the Iranian leadership's "disdain for international concerns and rejection of international diplomacy".
"The regime continues to choose confrontation over cooperation, a choice that deepens the isolation of Iran and hurts the interests of the Iranian people," Schulte told reporters in Vienna.
"Today Iran is taking a deliberate step towards enrichment, a process to create nuclear bomb material," the U.S. diplomat claimed, echoing Washington's long-standing claims that Iran plans to develop nuclear weapons technology.
Tehran, however, insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful in intent.
E.U. diplomats in Brussels expressed "grave concern" at Iran's decision, saying the re-opening of the Natanz plant move was in breach of Tehran's international commitments.
"We are very disappointed that Iran has not listened to international appeals ... this makes the situation very grave," Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Gallach said the Iranian decision marked a "violation" of the Paris agreement under which Tehran agreed two years ago to suspend nuclear research and uranium enrichment activities. She said the new steps were "clearly related to enrichment".
"This is a step which is taken very seriously by the international community," she said, adding: "It cannot go without a response".
The E.U. did not, however, announce an immediate cancellation of plans to hold nuclear talks with Iran on January 18. Diplomats in Brussels said the E.U. wanted to keep the IAEA in the lead in all dealings with Iran on the issue.
In a separate statement, however, Britain warned that Iran's resumption of nuclear research would "seriously jeopardise" negotiations with the E.U.
"We await a full report from the IAEA," a foreign office spokesperson in London said, adding: "This is a very negative development that will seriously jeopardise the negotiating process."
In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that by removing the seals of its atomic plants, Tehran had "crossed a line".
Steinmeier told reporters that the Iranians knew they would face consequences as a result of their action. As late as Monday there had been hopes that Tehran would return to a "path of reason", he said.
However, Steinmeier said he now planned to meet this week in Berlin with his counterparts from France and Great Britain for crisis talks on the recent developments surrounding the Iranian atomic programme.
China on Tuesday also urged Iran to continue talks with the E.U. trio, with foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan saying "all parties should show restraint and make efforts to build mutual trust".
The resumption of nuclear research also comes after talks last weekend between Iran and Russia over a Moscow compromise proposal to allow Iranian uranium enrichment take place on Russian soil and under Russian supervision.
Russia on Tuesday urged Iran not to restart work on uranium enrichment pending further consultations next month in Moscow.
Iranian news network Khabar reported that the Iranian parliament backed the decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to resume the research work, terming it a "source of national pride".
The deputy of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Saaidi told state television that "all barriers" to the full resumption of nuclear research work had been removed.
Saaidi stressed that nuclear research work should be distinguished from uranium enrichment, which he said was still suspended.
Subject: German news