The Guardian: The crisis over Iran’s suspect nuclear programme erupted in international divisions last night when Britain, France and Germany demanded that the governors of the UN’s nuclear agency report Tehran to the security council.
Ian Traynor in Vienna
The crisis over Iran’s suspect nuclear programme erupted in international divisions last night when Britain, France and Germany demanded that the governors of the UN’s nuclear agency report Tehran to the security council.
In a closed door meeting which participants described as tense, the European trio tabled a resolution to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency declaring Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and implicitly labelling its nuclear conduct a threat to international peace and security.
The formulation requires the IAEA’s board to report the culprit country to the security council where it can be reprimanded or sanctioned, although the wording left open when that might happen. The Europeans and the US hoped for unanimous endorsement of the resolution but there is no chance of that, with Russia, China, India and a dozen non-aligned countries opposed.
Iran said the Europeans were opting for “confrontation” by seeking to take the two-year dispute to the security council.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said earlier this week that Tehran would not give up manufacturing nuclear fuel. Iran insists its nuclear fuel work is for civil purposes but the west is determined to prevent it using the technology for military purposes.
The European gambit came late last night after a day of frantic negotiations. Despite the European show of unity, the British, French and Germans were divided over the move with the British taking the hard line backed by the US, senior officials taking part said. It remained unclear whether the Europeans would force a vote on the resolution, an unprecedented gamble, and if so when that would take place.
The IAEA’s board meeting had been scheduled to end yesterday but was extended into the weekend.
A US state department spokesman said: “If a vote were to be taken today, we think there are the votes, a majority of votes for a referral to the security council.” Opponents of the US-European position threatened to absent themselves to make any vote inquorate. The Europeans are assured of a majority if the decision is put to a vote, but it would be hugely divisive in an international body that operates by consensus.
A South African official told last night’s meeting that forcing a majority vote on Iran would mean “a parting of the ways” for the IAEA board.
Russia and China, with their security council vetoes, oppose the move, enabling them to stymie further action even if the row is taken to New York.
Senior European and US officials are calculating that Russia’s opposition at the IAEA could shift to support in the security council if the Iranians retaliate strongly to being referred to the security council.