Iran Nuclear NewsIran nuclear stance invites U.N. action - EU diplomats

Iran nuclear stance invites U.N. action – EU diplomats

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Reuters: Iran’s defiant vows to enrich uranium seem to mock
a Western offer of renewed talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme and may leave no recourse but U.N. Security Council action, EU diplomats said on Wednesday. By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran’s defiant vows to enrich uranium seem to mock a Western offer of renewed talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme and may leave no recourse but U.N. Security Council action, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.

They said dismay at Iran’s stance would be the gist of a declaration to be issued shortly by the European Union powers — Britain, France and Germany — which had hoped to resume talks with the Iranians this month.

The pending “EU3” foreign ministers’ declaration was likely to single out Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani’s signal that Tehran will start research on centrifuges. These are tubular machines that enrich uranium to fuel atomic power plants or nuclear weapons by revolving at supersonic speeds.

Such research “would not only go against the commitments made to the EU3 but also the demands of the IAEA board of governors”, one EU3 diplomat said, referring to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

“If Larijani wants to prejudge discussions or prevent the ability to find a basis for discussions, then that’s it,” he said, meaning that talks would be deemed useless and resort to the Security Council for possible sanctions would be inevitable.

On the EU’s behalf, Russia has proposed to defuse the crisis by enriching Iranian uranium on its soil, then returning it to Iran. This could minimise chances of Tehran acquiring the critical technology needed to make bomb-grade components.

In response, Tehran has said it is open to talks but will accept no deal removing its right to purify uranium at home and suggested it could withstand any referral to the Security Council, where Russia and China could block punitive sanctions.

The Islamic republic says its nuclear drive aims only to produce electricity, not make atomic bombs as the West suspects.

But it hid nuclear work from U.N. inspectors for 18 years until 2003 and its president has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, stirring Western concern about its intentions.

NO POINT TO TALKS?

“By their statements and conditions they set, the Iranian authorities risk compromising the possibility of finding a basis on which to resume negotiations,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said in Paris on Wednesday.

“One possibility would be for the Iranians to accept the Russian approach. But the statements made over the weekend go in the opposite direction,” the EU3 diplomat said.

In September the 35-nation IAEA board declared Iran in non-compliance with safeguards clauses of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Tehran has signed.

The NPT guarantees member states the right to develop a full nuclear fuel cycle but bans making weapons in the process.

Washington and the EU3 demanded a follow-up vote to send Iran to the Security Council. However, the IAEA board, its hands tied by resistance from Moscow and developing nations, opted last month to give time for diplomacy on the Russian proposal.

Analysts and some diplomats caution that turning Iran’s case over to the Security Council could prove a hollow threat, given big-power divisions, legal issues and energy importers’ anxiety not to disrupt oil and gas exports from OPEC giant Iran.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the Arabic daily al-Hayat on Wednesday that international patience toward Iran was waning but military intervention, a last-ditch option mooted by the United States and Israel, was unrealistic.

“I hope no one is thinking of (it) because it will lead to the opposite — aggravating the situation greatly,” he said.

Larijani said on Monday Iran’s nuclear research was peaceful and non-negotiable, adding: “Iran is not like Iraq or any other country. Iran is not an easy target to be threatened by Israel or others. We do not consider such threats serious.”

The British-American Security Information Council think tank said in a report on Tuesday that while a nuclear-armed Iran would be “dangerous and destabilising”, warnings about Security Council action lacked credibility.

As a solution, it suggested the West permit limited nuclear fuel production by Iran, possibly including low-enriched uranium — suitable to power most nuclear plants but not to make bombs.

Iran, in turn, should stop building a heavy water reactor at Arak which could yield plutonium, the key alternative ingredient in atomic bombs, the think tank said.

(Additional reporting by Lou Charbonneau in Berlin, Madeline Chambers in London, Jon Boyle in Paris, Paul Hughes in Tehran and Mohammed Abbas in Cairo)

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