AP: Buoyed by growing European support, the United States lobbied the U.N. atomic watchdog agency Monday to send Iran before the U.N. Security Council for refusing to freeze work that can produce nuclear weapons.
A European diplomat said Washington had revised a resolution originally drafted by France, Germany and Britain, adding an Oct. 31 deadline and toughening language meant to force Iran to dispel all suspicions it is trying to make nuclear arms in
violation of treaty commitments.
VIENNA, Austria – Buoyed by growing European support, the United States lobbied the U.N. atomic watchdog agency Monday to send Iran before the U.N. Security Council for refusing to freeze work that can produce nuclear weapons.
A European diplomat said Washington had revised a resolution originally drafted by France, Germany and Britain, adding an Oct. 31 deadline and toughening language meant to force Iran to dispel all suspicions it is trying to make nuclear arms in violation of treaty commitments.
The draft, summarized by the diplomat for The Associated Press, demands “complete, immediate and unrestricted access” to all sites and information requested by the International Atomic Energy Agency in its probe into Iran’s nearly 2-decade-long clandestine nuclear program.
The secret work was discovered only two years ago, bringing intensifying international pressure on Iran’s government to end nuclear programs that have uses in both electricity generation and the production of atomic weapons, such as uranium enrichment.
The draft demands Iran provide a complete list of nuclear materials and know-how it imported, along with the black market suppliers, and the “immediate suspension” of all uranium reprocessing and activities related to uranium enrichment.
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the draft also would require a “definite determination” by the IAEA of whether Iran fulfilled these and other conditions.
The draft did not directly threaten to refer Iran to the Security Council, but the Oct. 31 deadline would make clear the likelihood of that happening if Iran failed to fulfill all conditions, the diplomat said.
Amid the behind-the-scenes maneuvering on Iran, the IAEA’s board of governors publicly focused on U.S. ally South Korea, which last week acknowledged secret plutonium extraction and uranium enrichment experiments.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei described South Korea’s previous failure to report those activities as a “matter of serious concern from the proliferation perspective.”
Plutonium and enriched uranium are two key ingredients of nuclear bombs, and the revelation of South Korea’s experiments threatens to further disrupt diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to dismantle its suspected nuclear arms program.
An explosion in North Korea last week that produced a 2-mile-wide mushroom cloud again focused attention on the secretive country, though U.S. and international officials said the blast was not nuclear. Separately, though, a Bush administration official said there were indications the North is trying to conduct a test. North Korea called the speculation a “preposterous smear campaign.”
Western diplomats said there appeared to be a link between tests that South Koreans conducted in 2000 and secret uranium work nearly two decades earlier, saying the connection cast doubt on South Korea’s assertion the experiments were the work of renegade scientists.
ElBaradei said South Korean officials had acknowledged producing more than 300 pounds of uranium metal at three facilities that it had kept secret from his agency. A small amount of that was used in nuclear enrichment experiments using lasers, ElBaradei told the board.
Afterward, a diplomat who is familiar with the situation said more than 5 pounds of uranium metal that South Korea produced in the 1980s was used in the 2000 laser enrichment experiments. That suggested long-term planning, he said.
Repeating his government’s stance, South Korean delegate Ho Chang-Bom told reporters the amounts used in the experiments were small and performed by scientists “without the knowledge and authorization of the government.” With the revelations now public, South Korea has no more nuclear secrets, he said.
ElBaradei said he would have a fuller report on South Korea’s clandestine activities by the next board meeting in November.
The bigger issue facing the board this week appeared to be what to do about Iran.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Bush administration was seeking the support of other governments to bring Iran to the Security Council, where it would face possible sanctions.
“The president wants Iran to answer to the council, and that’s where we’re at now,” the official said.
The European Union, long opposed to such a move, appeared to be inching toward Washington’s position as it urged the Iranian government to give up work on uranium enrichment technology.
“There is a risk Iran is making a huge error,” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said. “I hope they understand that. If not, we will end up in a very serious situation.”
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier urged Iran to reassure the world “that what they are working on is for civil nuclear use only.”
Russia, however, said it opposed sending the Iranian matter to the Security Council at this point.
Fischer, Barnier and 23 other EU ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, had hoped Iran would compromise and abandon its uranium enrichment program, which Iran insists it needs to generate electricity but which other nations fear could be misused to make nuclear arms.
Speaking in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said his country would not halt uranium enrichment. He repeated that Iran could guarantee it was not seeking nuclear arms, an assurance the United States and its allies have dismissed as inadequate.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned Monday that Iran must stop breaking promises to at least suspend, if not scrap, all enrichment activities.
“They cannot turn the issue of confidence on and off like a tap,” he said.