Iran Nuclear NewsEU3 draft opens door to U.N. sanctions on Iran

EU3 draft opens door to U.N. sanctions on Iran

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Reuters: France, Britain and Germany began circulating a draft resolution on Wednesday that asks the U.N. nuclear watchdog to report Iran’s nuclear programme to the Security Council, opening the door to possible U.N. sanctions. By Louis Charbonneau

BERLIN, Jan 18 (Reuters) – France, Britain and Germany began circulating a draft resolution on Wednesday that asks the U.N. nuclear watchdog to report Iran’s nuclear programme to the Security Council, opening the door to possible U.N. sanctions.

The draft has been distributed to key members of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose 35-nation board of governors will vote on it at an emergency meeting.

The EU trio wants the meeting to take place on Feb. 2-3.

European officials are lobbying countries like Russia, China and other sceptics to help ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Tehran, which the European Union and United States fear is seeking nuclear arms under cover of a civilian atomic programme.

The resolution drafted by the “EU3”, and dictated to Reuters an EU3 diplomat, asks Iran “to help the (IAEA) clarify questions regarding possible nuclear weapons activities” and calls on IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei “to transmit a copy of this resolution to the Security Council”.

Tehran had no immediate reaction to the text.

However, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the world could not deflect Iran from its “scientific developments”, which it would pursue without fear of the “fuss” created over them, state television reported.

Hossein Entezami, spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, struck a slightly more conciliatory tone.

“Iran still invites the EU3 to continue talks. Iran still believes that diplomatic methods are the best methods to solve this issue. Iran hopes that the EU adopts logical methods regarding Iran’s nuclear case,” he told Reuters in Tehran.

Although referral of Iran’s case to the 15-nation Council could eventually lead to U.N. sanctions, diplomats and analysts say such punitive measures would be a long way off.

The EU3 decided last week to join Washington in calling for Iran to be hauled before the U.N.’s top body after Tehran said it would resume research on uranium enrichment, technology the West fears would enable Iran to produce atomic weapons.

Iran says its nuclear programme’s only aim is to produce electricity. But calls by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the destruction of Israel have deepened Western suspicions.

ELBARADEI TO REMAIN IN CHARGE

Although the EU3 draft would pass the Iranian nuclear issue to New York, it keeps the issue of inspecting Tehran’s atomic programme firmly in the hands of the Vienna-based IAEA.

The resolution “requests the director general (ElBaradei) to continue with his efforts to implement the agency’s safeguards agreement with Iran … with a view to providing credible assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities in Iran”.

The draft will undergo changes as key IAEA board members discuss the wording.

Russia and China, which are on both the IAEA board and the Security Council, have signalled doubts about the benefits of a U.N. referral. Moscow, however, has made clear its position is closer to the West’s than Beijing’s.

The resolution, if approved, would put the matter before the Council for the first time since the standoff with Iran began in August 2002 after a group of Iranian exile dissidents said Iran was hiding a uranium enrichment plant.

Western diplomats say the Security Council’s five permament members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China

— are consulting on what to do if the issue reaches New York.

Washington has been asking for Iran to be reported to the Council since September 2003, but the EU and developing nations on the IAEA board opposed this, preferring to allow the EU3 a chance to pursue negotiations with Tehran.

For 2-1/2 years, the EU trio tried to persuade Iran to give up its entire nuclear programme in exchange for economic and political incentives.

Under the November 2004 Paris Agreement, Iran agreed to freeze the programme during the negotiations. But in August 2005, Iran resumed uranium processing work at its Isfahan plant, prompting the EU3 to break off talks.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran)

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