Iran Nuclear NewsANALYSIS - Iran readies for U.N. nuclear battle with...

ANALYSIS – Iran readies for U.N. nuclear battle with EU, U.S.

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Reuters: Iran is working hard to gather allies to defeat a joint effort by the European Union and Washington to refer Tehran
to the U.N. Security Council because of their fears it may be developing nuclear weapons. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

BERLIN – Iran is working hard to gather allies to defeat a joint effort by the European Union and Washington to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council because of their fears it may be developing nuclear weapons.

The 35 nations on the governing board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meet on Sept. 19 to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme and the EU wants it to report Tehran to the highest body of the United Nations.

EU and U.S. diplomats are lobbying key members of the IAEA to send Iran’s case to the Security Council after it resumed uranium processing activities at Isfahan last month, a facility that had been mothballed under a November 2004 agreement with the EU’s three biggest powers, France, Britain and Germany.

Washington and the EU trio believe Iran is amassing the capability to develop nuclear weapons and have called on Tehran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme, which could be used to produce fuel for either nuclear energy or weapons.

But Iran, which insists its atomic ambitions are peaceful, refuses to give up what it says is its sovereign right to a full nuclear programme and has begun its own lobbying effort to keep the matter out of the hands of the Security Council.

“They (the EU and U.S.) have to realize that they cannot talk to Iran with a language of force,” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told reporters this week on returning from Pakistan, where he put his case to top officials.

“Many countries will sustain a loss if Iran’s nuclear dossier is securitized (by the Council),” Larijani warned.

EU diplomats said Iran was focusing its lobbying efforts on key IAEA board members such as China, Russia, India, Pakistan, South Africa and other non-aligned developing states, which have a good deal of sympathy for Tehran’s arguments.

NOT LAST WORD

Despite opposition from Russia, China and other states, the EU and the United States want the powerful U.N. Council involved to ensure that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are finally recognised as one of the key global security issues.

This is something the IAEA, a non-political technical agency that accounts for countries’ nuclear materials, cannot do.

“We (the EU3) are unanimous in our assessment of the way forward that following what has happened, now it should be for the board of governors of the IAEA to report the issue to the Security Council,” Ruediger Luedeking, a senior German negotiator in the EU-Iran talks, said in Berlin this week.

British and other EU officials made similar declarations. Russia said this week it opposed a Security Council referral but some diplomats and analysts doubt this is Moscow’s last word.

“As long as the EU and the U.S. are serious about Iran, the Russians will be serious too,” said former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack, an Iran expert at the U.S. Brookings Institute.

But he said he had serious doubts about the ability of the divided IAEA board to take a firm and unanimous stand on Iran this month. Those doubts are shared by officials of the EU3, which has tried for two years to get Iran to give up parts of its nuclear programme in return for economic and trade rewards.

“There’s no guarantee it will succeed,” an EU official said.

Luedeking said the aim of a Security Council referral would not automatically be to trigger sanctions. Rather, the Council could use its authority to demand that Iran resume negotiations with the EU3 and the suspension of its uranium enrichment programme that it ended last month, he said.

IRAN PREPARES NEW PROPOSAL

Next week in New York, on the sidelines of a U.N. summit of world leaders, Iran’s new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will show U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan a new proposal to resolve Iran’s atomic stand-off with the West.

“This proposal will be submitted right before the IAEA board meeting and could lead to calls that Iran not be sent to the Security Council until the proposal has been studied closely,” a diplomat told Reuters in Berlin this week.

“This is Iran’s strategy to delay a U.N. referral,” he said.

Citing intelligence gathered by his country, the diplomat, who declined to have him or his country identified, said the proposal would call for expanding the negotiations with the Europeans to include countries more sympathetic to Iran’s cause, specifically Russia, China, India or South Africa.

Regardless of Iran’s new proposal, EU officials have said there can be no more talks without a full enrichment suspension. But they acknowledged that the non-aligned developing countries, which make up around a third of the IAEA board, would prefer to delay any Security Council referral of the Iran issue.

“We are trying to persuade them otherwise,” an official from one of the EU trio said this week.

(Additional reporting by Paul Taylor in Brussels, Paul Hughes in Tehran and Madeline Chambers in London)

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