Iran Nuclear NewsIran facing real prospect of Security Council referral: diplomats

Iran facing real prospect of Security Council referral: diplomats

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AFP: The chances of Iran being hauled before the UN Security Council over its suspect nuclear programme have never been stronger, diplomats said ahead of crucial talks in Europe next week. When the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany meet the Islamic republic’s top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, the “only thing we will agree upon is that we disagree”, a European diplomat told AFP. AFP

TEHRAN – The chances of Iran being hauled before the UN Security Council over its suspect nuclear programme have never been stronger, diplomats said ahead of crucial talks in Europe next week.

When the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany meet the Islamic republic’s top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, the “only thing we will agree upon is that we disagree”, a European diplomat told AFP.

Iran shares that bleak assessment, describing next week’s emergency meeting as a “last chance” to save its long-running talks with the so-called EU-3.

The current crisis is centred on Iran’s demand to resume some of its sensitive uranium work, in violation of a deal with the Europeans in November 2004.

That accord opened long-term negotiations on Iran’s nuclear fuel drive — the focus of fears the country is seeking the bomb — with the EU offering incentives in exchange for “objective guarantees” from Iran.

“The objective guarantees are not there, so there is no question of us agreeing to a resumption of any uranium activities, that includes conversion,” said a European diplomat close to the issue.

Uranium conversion, which Iran wants to restart, is a precursor to the process of enriching uranium — which can make the core of a nuclear weapon.

But Iran insists its bid to master the full nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment, is merely aimed at generating electricity and is a right for any country that has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Iran has proposed commencing a phased resumption of fuel cycle work, but that has been rejected. The Europeans want Iran to dismantle the programme altogether — in other words the same kind of deal that Britain and the United States reached with Libya.

“The Iranians have made just one proposal, and the proposal is not acceptable to us,” said the diplomat, who was speaking on condition that he not be named.

“It looks as if we are heading to the Security Council. This doesn’t mean the end of the diplomatic process. It will just mean that the issue has moved into a new phase,” he added.

Other diplomats close to the talks echoed that warning.

“Everything is moving in the direction of the Security Council. But it is not necessarily a big thing — the North Koreans have been there for years,” he said.

If Iran breaks the deal, the matter is likely to first go the 35-nation board of governors at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog.

It would be from there that the matter would be sent to New York — although that does not automatically mean sanctions.

With the need for a consensus with nations such as Russia and China, the Council may first simply issue a warning to Iran.

“It does not look good,” said another diplomat. “The two sides look very determined. The question is whether the Iranians are prepared to go all the way, because there is a certain amount of bluff involved.”

“It’s like two cars heading for a collision. Which driver is going to chicken out first?”

For the time being, Iran is saying that its decision to resume conversion is “definitive”.

“It seems that the people who really make the decisions in Iran have decided that they have spent enough time talking,” the diplomat explained.

“The Europeans could try to put a bit more on the table, but they will not go back on their core demand, a halt in enrichment. They have an agreement on this with the Americans, and cannot afford to go back.”

Seen as the only chance for the matter to stay out of the Security Council is a last-minute Iranian compromise. Last week, under international pressure and after a telephone call from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Iran agreed to the four-way meeting and delay its resumption of uranium conversion work.

“The Iranians do not want to go the Security Council,” said one of the EU diplomats. “They know that they’ll end up in the wrong pipeline, one which could lead to sanctions.”

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