Daily Telegraph: Senior officials from Europe, America, Russia and China will meet in London today to devise a joint strategy to restrain Iran’s nuclear programme. Daily Telegraph
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor
Senior officials from Europe, America, Russia and China will meet in London today to devise a joint strategy to restrain Iran’s nuclear programme.
But as Iran threatened retaliation, including hints that it could seek to drive up the price of oil, cracks began to emerge among western leaders.
Iran’s move last week to restart its uranium enrichment programme has precipitated an international crisis.
America and the so-called EU3 that have led the diplomatic talks with Iran for the past two years – Britain, France and Germany – declared that Iran had crossed a “red line”.
Convinced that Teheran was trying to build an atomic bomb, they said they would call an emergency meeting of the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and push for Iran to be reported to the United Nations Security Council for breaching its nuclear obligations.
In London today, they hope to win the support of Russia and China both for the move at the IAEA and for subsequent steps at the UN designed steadily to increase pressure on Iran.
Western countries have enough votes to push the referral through the IAEA board but want to present a more united front to deny Iran the chance to play off one power against another.
More importantly, the West wants to make sure that any sanctions at the UN will not be vetoed by Russia or China.
Iran has responded defiantly, saying it wants negotiations but also threatening to curtail co-operation with IAEA inspectors if its case is reported to the UN.
A foreign ministry spokesman said: “There is no legal basis to send our case to the Security Council but, even if it goes there, the Islamic republic is not scared.”
The economy minister, Davoud Danesh-Jafari, appeared to raise the stakes by warning that “any possible sanctions on Iran from the West could possibly, by disturbing Iran’s political and economic situation, raise oil prices beyond levels the West expects”.
Iran is the world’s fourth largest oil producer and his comments will be seen by diplomats as a threat to disrupt world oil markets.
Germany’s deputy foreign minister, Gernot Erler, appeared to break ranks with other western countries when he predicted sanctions could rebound on the West.
“We have a global situation in the energy sector where we are seeing desperate measures by Asian countries, mainly from China, India and others, to get hold of energy resources,” he told Inforadio Berlin. “For them Iran is a partner they can’t do without.”
Declaring that “we are still very far away from any concrete sanctions”, Mr Erler added that imposing trade restrictions was a “dangerous path” that “could hurt one’s own side more than the other side”.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, last week said sanctions were “in the locker”.
British officials said any moves by the UN were likely to begin with political demands that Iran co-operate fully with inspectors, followed perhaps by narrowly targeted sanctions such as a travel ban on Iranian leaders.