Financial Times: European governments intend to call a crisis meeting of the United Nations nuclear watchdog’s governing board next week if Iran carries out its threat to resume sensitive nuclear processes, western diplomats in Vienna said on Tuesday. The meeting at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency would discuss the prospects of a referral of the Iran nuclear dispute to the UN Security Council, where the US would lobby for sanctions. Financial Times
By Gareth Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran and Roula Khalaf in London
European governments intend to call a crisis meeting of the United Nations nuclear watchdog’s governing board next week if Iran carries out its threat to resume sensitive nuclear processes, western diplomats in Vienna said on Tuesday.
The meeting at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency would discuss the prospects of a referral of the Iran nuclear dispute to the UN Security Council, where the US would lobby for sanctions.
Tensions between Iran and the UK, France and Germany – the so-called EU3 European partners that have been in talks with Tehran – have escalated in recent days amid warnings from Tehran that it would resume work at the Isfahan facility.
The Isfahan plant is not an enrichment facility, but it converts raw uranium into a gas that can be fed into centrifuges for the production of fuel that can be used in nuclear reactors or in atomic bombs.
A senior Iranian diplomat, however, said on Tuesday that if the EU3 backed US demands for a referral to the UN, Iran would retaliate by restarting “activities” in the Natanz plant – where the actual enrichment of uranium takes place.
Tehran last year agreed to suspend the enrichment of uranium and related activities for the duration of negotiations with the EU3.
But the negotiations ran into trouble two weeks ago, when the three European governments refused to endorse an Iranian proposal to maintain a small-scale enrichment programme.
The Europeans are insisting that Iran permanently cease its uranium enrichment activities, considering this as the only guarantee that the programme would not be used to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran has yet officially to inform the IAEA of its intention to resume work at Isfahan. But western diplomats close to the agency expect notification to come within days. Once Iran gives notice, the diplomats said, the EU3 will call for an IAEA board meeting, as a first step towards referral to the UN.
British officials have warned that restarting the conversion process would lead to the collapse of the negotiations and risked sending the Iran dispute to the UN Security Council. France on Tuesday called on Iran to stick by its suspension agreement.
A European diplomat in Tehran said that whether or not Iran had “fully understood” the message from Europe, it “was fully aware of the implications of breaking the suspension”.
But a senior Iranian diplomat on Tuesday insisted Iran would begin conversion of raw uranium within the next few days, despite the European threats of UN referral.
The Iranian diplomat told the FT that Tehran believed Europe would continue to negotiate with Iran, even if the suspension of uranium conversion was lifted.
“Iran is aware that its file might go to the [UN”> Security Council,” said the diplomat. “This will create a crisis, but even in such a crisis they have to talk to us.”
He said Iran considered the resumption of a uranium conversion facility at Isfahan as separate from its uranium enrichment activities, insisting that it should not be part of the Paris agreement, the deal reached with the EU3 last year.
European diplomats disagree. They say that the suspension must be accepted by Iran as a whole. “As far as the Paris agreement is concerned, it is not a question of degree. If you resume any enrichment-related activity, that is a breach of the agreement,” said one diplomat. “The talks will stop, and the consequences will be serious.”