Reuters: The U.N. nuclear watchdog deferred until Saturday a vote to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over fears it is seeking atomic bombs, as the European Union lobbied developing nations to back the measure. By Mark Heinrich and Francois Murphy
VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog deferred until Saturday a vote to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over fears it is seeking atomic bombs, as the European Union lobbied developing nations to back the measure.
Diplomats said a clear majority on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board favoured notifying the council on Iran, but EU diplomats needed more time to persuade as many developing states as possible to vote yes rather than abstain.
Iran warned it would curb IAEA checks on its atomic sites if sent to the council, a threat that seemed to influence efforts by developing states to soften the EU-sponsored resolution.
EU diplomats said the threat would not deter their efforts to induce the Islamic Republic to change course.
The IAEA board held a crisis session on Thursday and had planned to reconvene on Friday, before the delay was announced. The board is now due to meet at 9:00 a.m. British time on Saturday.
“We are trying as best we can to secure as broad as possible consensus on the board for reporting Iran,” said a diplomat with the one of the sponsoring powers, Britain, France and Germany.
“The resolution is being revised,” a senior diplomat close to the IAEA said earlier.
Asked about the haggling, a Western diplomat said: “The threat (to restrict inspections) is on everyone’s minds but we consider it blackmail and if we give in to that, there’s no end to it.”
He said the negotiations with developing states focussed on clarifying a clause in the resolution so that it could not be construed as ending IAEA oversight of Iran’s case.
U.S. and EU leaders, aware that Russia, China and developing states on the IAEA board want to avoid a showdown with Iran, the world’s No. 4 oil exporter, said on Thursday that reporting Tehran would not end diplomacy or trigger early U.N. sanctions.
Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator warned that involving the Security Council would also kill talks on a Russian offer to defuse the crisis by enriching Iranian uranium to ensure the Islamic Republic cannot divert it for bombs.
Some developing nations fear a drift towards U.N. sanctions against Iran and resent the Western push to single out Tehran before the IAEA concludes inquiries into its nuclear programme.
They argued that the clause in dispute appeared to pre-empt the outcome of a comprehensive investigative report that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is due to deliver for a regular March 6 board meeting, as well as any dialogue on Russia’s proposals.
Analysts earlier reckoned on a majority of 25-30 on the 35-member IAEA board in favour of the resolution, with only a few “no’s” from nations such as Syria, Venezuela and Cuba.
Tehran says it only wants nuclear power for electricity.
Russia and China endorsed the EU-sponsored resolution after Tehran was given at least until March to cooperate fully with U.N. investigators before the council takes any action.
But Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani warned ElBaradei in writing that any recourse to the council “would be the final blow to the confidence of Iran” in the IAEA. Tehran would respond by halting short-notice inspections of its atomic sites.
“The agency’s monitoring would be extensively limited and all peaceful nuclear activities (in Iran) being under voluntary suspension would be resumed without any restriction,” he wrote.
Javad Vaeedi, Larijani’s deputy, said there would be no point exploring the Russian proposal, due to be discussed in Moscow on February 16, if the IAEA board approved the EU resolution.
“The (West) seems to be in a hyper-mode of confrontation. If this resolution is adopted, it will tie our hands. It will kill Russia’s proposal,” he told reporters at the IAEA in Vienna.
The West mistrusts Iran because it hid nuclear work from the IAEA for 18 years. The agency has found no solid proof of a nuclear weapons programme but says many questions remain.
Larijani called on Germany, France and Britain to restart talks on a diplomatic solution. But they say Iran must first reverse its move to resume atomic research, announced on January 9.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Paul Hughes in Tehran)