London (UPI) Jan 16, 2006
European and U.S. representatives called for an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Feb. 2 and 3, where Iran could be referred to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear programs.
Speaking after the five permanent Security Council members and Germany met in London to discuss Iran's announcement that it would resume nuclear fuel research, the British Foreign Office said most, but not all, of the participants agreed on the proposal.
It is understood that diplomats from Russia and China did not give their support to that date, believing it to be too hasty.
World powers are however in consensus on the need to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program by diplomatic means, a Foreign Office official told United Press International. He could not confirm news reports that the European Union-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- had begun drafting a resolution to refer Iran to the Security Council over its resumption of nuclear fuel research.
The crisis over Iran's nuclear programs escalated sharply last week when Tehran removed U.N. seals from three facilities, ending a two-year suspension of uranium enrichment-related activities.
Western countries suspect the Islamic Republic is aiming to produce nuclear weapons; however Tehran denies this, insisting its nuclear programs are purely for energy purposes.
The 35-member IAEA board of governors must vote to refer Iran to the Security Council where it could face sanctions. But Russia and China, both permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council, have been against tough action. Moscow has a $1 billion deal to build Iran's first atomic reactor at Bushehr, and Beijing is reliant on Iranian oil.
Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated earlier he might now support a referral; however he also sounded a note of caution and suggested a deal could still be reached.
Speaking in Moscow after talks Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said Russia's position was "very close" to that of the Europe and the United States; however he stressed that no "abrupt, mistaken steps" should be taken in tackling the crisis.
Tehran had not yet rejected an offer for Iran's nuclear enrichment to take place in Russia, he said -- a deal that would make it harder for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
China appears the most reluctant to threaten sanctions, saying in a foreign ministry statement Monday: "All relevant sides should remain restrained and stick to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations."
Ahead of the talks, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw emphasized a referral to the Security Council did not necessarily mean sanctions, economic or otherwise.
Speaking at a conference on international terrorism at the Royal United Services Institute, he said the authority of the Security Council in itself could be enough to bring Iran back into compliance over its nuclear program.
"I don't think we should rush our fences here," he said.
"There are plenty of examples where a matter is referred to the Security Council and the Security Council takes action and that action is followed without sanction..
"The fact that Iran is so concerned not to see it referred to the Security Council underlines the strength of that body."
Both countries have said the issue can be resolved through talks though Straw said Friday military action was "not conceivable." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -sticking with past policy -- has refused to rule out using force.
Lord Timothy Garden, former assistant chief of defense staff and Liberal Democrat defense spokesman, said the international community must avoid forcing Iran into a corner where it felt the only way to prevent military action was to develop a nuclear weapon.
He told UPI he believed Iran certainly wanted to keep open the option of developing nuclear weapons capability. It viewed Israel as a threat, was surrounded by nuclear powers such as Pakistan and India, and felt vulnerable to the kind of military action it had seen in neighboring Iraq.
Tehran might be following the "North Korea model", he said, in that "it has seen that you're liable to intervention if you don't have nuclear weapons."
It was impossible, in his opinion, to prevent Iran from getting to a point where it was close to getting the capability to develop weapons, he said. What was important was to keep Iran engaged and not isolate it to a point it felt the only way to prevent military action was to use that capability to develop weapons.
The issue would go to the Security Council and some form of sanctions would likely be imposed, though "ultimately they won't make any difference," Garden told UPI.
Iran was "playing from a remarkably strong hand at the moment," he added.
It had already warned oil prices could soar as a result of sanctions against it, and it could make things difficult for the coalition in Iraq through its connection with the country's Shiite Muslims.
Source: United Press International
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Kim Jong-Il In China For Nuclear, Economic Briefings
Beijing (AFP) Jan 16, 2006
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has the world guessing on his movements during a highly secretive trip to China, but analysts say the economic and geopolitical goals of his visit are clear.
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