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. US presses UN action against Iran
WASHINGTON (AFP) Aug 08, 2005
The United States considers reports that Iran has restarted nuclear activities "unfortunate" and would expect Tehran to be taken before the United Nations, a State Department official said Monday.

The official, who asked not to be named, made his comments after the vice president of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency announced the resumption of uranium conversion at its Isfahan plant despite warnings by the international community.

"If, in fact, they have just taken measures to restart uranium conversion, ... it would be unfortunate," the US official said, adding that he expected a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday to take "appropriate action."

"We've said all along that should Iran break the seals and restart uranium enrichment at Isfahan or anywhere else, we would think an appropriate response would be a referral to the United Nations."

The move by Iran, which Washington accuses of seeking nuclear arms, came despite an effort by Britain, France and Germany to wean Tehran off its ambitions with economic and security incentives.

The Islamic Republic rejected as "unacceptable" the latest offer that would have allowed it to retain a civilian nuclear capacity but barred it from enriching uranium that could be used in a bomb.

Iran agreed in November to suspend such activities pending talks with the so-called EU-3, but the crisis has escalated since Tehran's ultra-conservative President Mahmood Ahmadinejad took office last week.

The United States was initially skeptical of the European effort and had pressed to bring Iran before the United Nations for possible sanctions from the start, but lacked support.

Washington changed tack in March and backed the EU-3 negotiations, adding its own sweeteners: a promise to eventually help Iran obtain spare parts for civilian airliners and not to oppose its bid for entry into the World Trade Organization.

US officials have admitted the shift was part of an effort to repair ties with their European allies that were frayed by the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

But President George W. Bush's administration remained leery of the Europeans' chances of talking Iran out of its nuclear aspirations and clearly kept its distance from the latest proposal unveiled Friday.

"This is an EU-3 plan; it's not a United States plan," a senior US official said in a conference call with reporters Friday. "We don't agree with every detail of the plan, but we do agree with the fact that it's been put forward."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also stressed that the United States had not been asked to make any new commitments to Iran.

Indeed, the hands-off US attitude has raised some questions.

For example, commentators said European offers to provide fuel for Iranian reactors could run into the threat of retaliation from the United States under the trade embargo it imposed on Iran.

They said Tehran was unlikely to be impressed with security assurances from the Europeans that don't include pledges by the United States, which has troops in Iran's neighboring countries of Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Washington appeared to have made a concession to the Europeans in endorsing a proposal that would allow Iran, part of Bush's "axis of evil," to retain nuclear capacity for civilian use.

The Americans had previously insisted that Iran, which sits on the world's second-largest oil and gas reserves, had no need to pursue any nuclear activities at all. But they eased their position this year.

The US administration indicated it was acceptable for Russia to provide fuel for a nuclear plant it is building at Bushehr, on southwestern Iran's coast, as long as any spent fuel was taken out of Iran.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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