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Iran Nuclear Row Coming To A Head Says US Official

Vice President Dick Cheney said referral to the council would be the probable next step after Iran announced resumption of nuclear research it had suspended for two years amid fears it was working on a bomb.

Washington (AFP) Jan 11, 2006
The United States said Wednesday the row over Iran's suspected nuclear arms program was quickly coming to a head and was increasingly likely to end up before the UN Security Council.

Vice President Dick Cheney said referral to the council would be the probable next step after Iran announced resumption of nuclear research it had suspended for two years amid fears it was working on a bomb.

"What would be probably the number one item on the agenda would be the resolution that could be enforced by sanctions, were they (the Iranians) to fail to comply with it," Cheney told Fox News radio.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack echoed the sense of urgency, saying, "The international community is, I think, coming up very soon on a decision point on what the diplomatic next steps are."

"It is more likely than ever that we are headed to the (UN) Security Council on this question," McCormack told reporters at the department's daily briefing.

US officials have said they were in intense consultations with their allies and others as negotiations stalled on European efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions with economic and other incentives.

McCormack said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conferred Wednesday by phone with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and also spoke with Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Rice spoke Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country has offered to house Iranian uranium-enrichment activities on its own soil as a control and confidence-building measure.

McCormack said an emergency meeting of the board of governors of the Vienna-based IAEA, which could refer Iran to the United Nations for possible sanctions, was "certainly an option that is under discussion."

Chief diplomats of Britain, France and Germany, which had been negotiating in vain with the Iranians, were to meet Thursday with the prospect of seeking UN action against Iran topping their agenda, officials said.

US officials have all but written off the "EU-3" negotiations with Iran launched at the end of 2004. Washington first spurned the talks but embraced them in March in a gesture of solidarity with the Europeans.

US officials say even the Europeans have little hope of making headway with Tehran. "We're on the verge of a different diplomatic phase concerning this issue," said one senior official who asked not to be named.

The Americans insist they have a majority of votes on the 35-member IAEA board to haul Iran before the UN Security Council but it was not clear whether there was enough support for punitive action.

China and Russia, two of the five permanent council members with veto power, have shown little inclination to impose sanctions on Iran.

McCormack said the United States had been in contact with "a wide variety of members" of the IAEA board, including Russia. But he had nothing to report on consultations with the Chinese.

US officials were not clear about what they hoped to accomplish if the matter went to the Security Council, saying only they were working closely with the EU-3 on a strategy.

They also did not rule a two-track approach of seeking sanctions while remaining open to negotiations with the Islamic republic.

"If you do end up in the Security Council, that absolutely does not preclude using available diplomatic avenues or new diplomatic avenues to achieve what we all want to achieve," said a senior official.

But he would not say whether any such talks would be carried on by the EU-3 or other parties.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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World Powers Threaten Defiant Iran Over Nuclear Crisis
Vienna (AFP) Jan 11, 2006
World powers threatened Iran with UN Security Council sanctions Wednesday after it resumed sensitive nuclear activities as a defiant Tehran vowed to press ahead with its disputed atomic programme.

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