AP: The European Union on Thursday urged Iran to return to the negotiating table to discuss its nuclear program and threatened to take Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it did not. Associated Press
By RAF CASERT
Associated Press Writer
NEWPORT, Wales – The European Union on Thursday urged Iran to return to the negotiating table to discuss its nuclear program and threatened to take Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it did not.
At a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Britain, France and Germany briefed the EU nations on the collapse of negotiations with Tehran and said U.N. intervention could well become the only option.
“We are ready to go to New York if necessary,” said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The 25-nation EU would give Iran up to the Sept. 19 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to come back to the negotiating table on some of its atomic activities that can also be used to make nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the program is only for generating electricity.
“We cannot take a time-out when it comes to our security,” said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, underscoring the need for urgency.
Although the U.N. Security Council has the power to impose sanctions, China opposes bringing the issue before the council and could use its veto power to block a resolution punishing Iran.
An emergency IAEA meeting on Iran last month did not report Tehran to the Security Council, and instead asked the nuclear agency’s chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, to report to the agency board members by Saturday on Iran’s activities.
After discussing the issue with the foreign ministers, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner insisted Thursday the negotiating door remained open for Tehran.
“We are still ready to seek a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue. But the Iranians should not make the mistake of underestimating the strength of … Europe. Nobody wants to go to the Security Council, but it might become unavoidable if they don’t cooperate,” she told reporters.
In London, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claimed Tehran obtained 44 pounds of beryllium from China last year. Beryllium can be used in the development of nuclear weapons, reducing by as much as a third the need for enriched uranium or plutonium.
There was no immediate comment from Iran’s government. Officials at the IAEA, which is probing Iran’s nuclear activities for possible signs of a weapons program, said they had no comment on the allegations.
But diplomats close to the agency and familiar with Iran’s nuclear program said the IAEA appeared not to possess any evidence linking Iran to large-scale imports of beryllium. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, saying the issue was confidential.
Tehran has rejected economic and other incentives offered by Britain, France and Germany – who were negotiating on behalf of the EU – and resumed activity related to uranium enrichment.
“You can imagine that we are very, very disappointed. We have been offering a lot to the Iranians and there was a lot there and we showed them how important it is that they engage with the Europeans,” said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
Paris also added its weight. “We call on Iran’s spirit of responsibility to re-establish cooperation and confidence, without which the Security Council would have no other choice than to pick up the issue,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who is hosting the EU meeting, is expected to push Iran to continue the talks if it wants to avoid being called before the Security Council.
The EU faces pressure from the United States, which accuses Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to secretly develop nuclear weapons.
In August, Iran restarted uranium conversion, an early stage in the nuclear fuel cycle that precedes enrichment. Highly enriched uranium can be used to make weapons. At lower levels, it is used in power generation.