Way clear for Security Council action on Iran

9th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

VIENNA, March 8, 2006 (AFP) - The UN nuclear watchdog Wednesday opened the way for Security Council action against Iran over its atomic program, prompting Tehran to threaten Washington with "harm and pain" for leading the charge.

VIENNA, March 8, 2006 (AFP) - The UN nuclear watchdog Wednesday opened the way for Security Council action against Iran over its atomic program, prompting Tehran to threaten Washington with "harm and pain" for leading the charge.

A report on Iran's program, which the West fears is hiding a covert drive for the atom bomb, will now be sent to the UN body in New York, US ambassador Gregory Schulte told reporters here.

A top US official in Washington said the dossier would be brought up next week at the Security Council.

"If Iran doesn't respond to words, we believe the world community should entertain the possibility of sanctions," Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns told a House of Representatives committee.

"But it's going to be incumbent upon our allies around the world to show that they are willing to act," he added.

Later Wednesday representatives of the five permanent member states were meeting in New York to discuss what the US ambassador to the council, John Bolton, called an "appropriate response" to the Iranian dossier.

In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency wrapped up a three-day regular meeting that focused Wednesday on the Iranian standoff, with an assessment by IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei.

He said it was still possible to reach a political settlement and urged all sides to "lower the rhetoric" to achieve this.

"This is simply a new phase of diplomacy, an extension of diplomatic efforts to find a solution," ElBaradei said.

Unlike the IAEA, the Security Council has enforcement powers and can impose punitive measures, including sanctions.

Europe and the United States have led the drive for action, saying Iran has hidden the truth about its nuclear program and should not be allowed to enrich uranium, which can provide the fuel for civilian reactors but also, in highly enriched form, material for atomic weapons.

"Iran has not met the conditions at the IAEA" to suspend all enrichment and cooperate fully with inspectors, Burns said.

Tehran has proposed suspending industrial-scale enrichment but doing research work, but the West says even small-scale enrichment is too dangerous.

Iranian security official Javad Vaidi, who led the Iranian delegation in Vienna, threatened reprisals against the United States.

"The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain but it is also susceptible to harm and pain," he said.

"So if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll."

But the White House warned that Iran had deepened its international isolation with its threats.

"I think that provocative statements and actions only further isolate Iran from the rest of the world," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters during a trip by President George W. Bush to New Orleans.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, said in New York there was no military solution to the row and cast doubt on the effectiveness of any sanctions against Tehran.

Moscow has been trying to broker a compromise under which Iran could enrich uranium in Russia, so that it gets the nuclear fuel but not the technology for making bombs.

Vaidi reiterated that Iran would press on with small-scale enrichment work despite the IAEA's calls to halt this activity.

"We will continue to exercise our R-and-D activities based on our right," Vaidi said, referring to research and development.

He said Iran would not -- for now -- use its key role as an oil supplier as a weapon in the international dispute but could review the situation later.

Iran is to continue its current level of cooperation with the IAEA, Iranian ambassador Ali-Agsar Soltanieh said.

Mark Malloch Brown, the incoming UN deputy secretary general, said Iran had been referred to the Security Council because its five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- had to assume it was hiding something.

It was still unclear what Iran's intentions were, he told BBC radio, but "at this point the 'permanent five' have concluded that, because Iran has not been seen as coming clean on what it was doing, we have to assume the likelihood of a military programme, and therefore must have Security Council action."

The UN official said any movement toward sanctions would be gradual but that if Tehran did not change tack, action could follow within months.

In Paris French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the Iran dossier had caused an international "crisis of confidence" and that "the moment has now come... for the United Nations Security Council to play its role and support the action of the IAEA."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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