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Iran Long Way From U.N. Council

By William M. Reilly, UPI U.N. Correspondent
United Nations (UPI) Jan 18, 2006
The U.N. Security Council Tuesday was not expected to get the Iran nuclear issue until next month and then it may be a while before it would be decided what kind of action to take, if any, and still a while more to see if there would be enough support to put it up for a vote by the 15-member panel.

Expect no quick action and the possibility of sanctions, slim, appears even more distant.

"We think that Security Council involvement strengthens the hand of the IAEA in dealing with the Iranian nuclear weapons program," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters outside the council chamber Tuesday evening. "There obviously are no guarantees in the Security Council. This will be a test for the council, and appropriately so, because the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems threatens their region and threatens the world as a whole. But, it is because the council does have that responsibility under the (U.N.) Charter that we think it should be addressed here, not that it is a guarantee of success."

So far, the EU3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- have called on the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear monitoring body based in Vienna, to meet on the topic early next month. But there is no agreement beyond the simple referral. The 25-member European Union backs the trio.

The United States supports the move. Russia and China have agreed not to block it going to the IAEA, but that is a long way from supporting any action even if they have joined in the call to Tehran to freeze its nuclear research.

A week ago, Iran broke the IAEA inspector seals at its Natanz nuclear research facility and others, saying it was going ahead with what Tehran calls its right to develop nuclear energy. It claims that right, despite contravening nuclear accords and clandestinely conducting nuclear research for decades.

Iran has said if the United Nations against acts against it, all cooperation with the IAEA would cease, such as allowing spot checks.

Opponents say since Tehran was not truthful about Iran's nuclear research in the past, there is no reason to believe Tehran now when it claims its research is strictly for developing its ability to produce energy for when its huge oil reserves are depleted.

Britain has said it wants the IAEA to refer the question to the council. The nuclear watchdog already has a draft resolution from last autumn that was pigeonholed, to await the EU3's efforts. It would only take a positive vote from 18 of the board's 35 governors to send the issue to the golden-hued, horseshoe-shaped, table at U.N. World Headquarters in New York where the council sits. There is no veto in the IAEA.

While China and Russia are not ready to recommend referral to the council they have not said they would block referral.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow's compromise offer to help Tehran enrich uranium, but not in Iran, is still viable. That would remove concerns about Iran developing nuclear weapon capability. It already has the means to deliver a nuclear weapon by missile to as far away as Europe.

Moscow also wants negotiations between the EU3 and Tehran to resume. China agrees and Iran says it is willing to resume talks.

Britain sees Iran's supposed willingness to talk, in face of bellicose statements of Iran's outspoken new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as stalling.

If, as expected, the issue goes to New York, there are several outcomes possible.

One outcome, is none.

That's right, at the end there could be no action, other than diplomatic maneuverings.

The most likely initial reaction by the 15-member Security Council would be a statement from the panel calling on Iran to cooperate with inspectors and continue negotiations.

Even targeted sanctions at this stage do not appear likely, but it is possible.

Reasoning for this lies in positions of the veto-wielding five permanent members of the panel. While Britain, France and the United States may be in favor of action, China and Russia are not and could cast a veto. However, they also could abstain from a vote, enabling sanctions.

Such a resolution, under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, requires "an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members." They could abstain and sanctions could be improved.

China depends on oil from Iran and has a long history of reluctance to interfere in the domestic affairs of another state, perhaps motivated of intrusion into China's "internal affairs" over the annexation of Tibet. A similar situation holds true in Sudan where China also buys a lot of oil and is against sanctions.

"The Chinese side believes resolving the issue through peaceful diplomatic means is the best choice, benefiting all parties," said a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, Kong Quan.

Russia is building a $1 billion nuclear plant in Iran, a project it does not want jeopardized and is reluctant see any embargo imposed on Iran.

"The question of sanctions against Iran puts the cart before the horse," Russia's Lavrov has said. "Sanctions are in no way the best, or the only, way to solve the problem."

Lavrov has said Iran should halt attempts at enrichment, assist IAEA inspectors and negotiate.

Going into a Security Council session on Afghanistan Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton was asked about the Iran situation.

"The next event will be at the IAEA in early February," he said, declining to comment directly.

"If the Security Council can't deal with something like the Iranian nuclear weapons program then it's hard to imagine what circumstances the (U.N.) Charter contemplated the council would be involved in," Bolton said earlier. "This is a clear threat to international peace and security, which we have said for some time."

Source: United Press International

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