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.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said an emergency meeting Thursday of an EU troika in Berlin would weigh up its response to the crisis but that it was "likely" to end in Iran's referral to the UN body.
It followed the Islamic republic's declaration Tuesday that it was ending a two-year suspension of nuclear fuel research, sparking a furious reaction from the United States, the European Union and a host of other countries.
Russia, which has been a frequent ally of Iran over its nuclear programme, hardened its rhetoric, saying the resumption was "cause for alarm."
Central to the concerns of the international community is that Tehran could be trying to develop atomic weapons, a charge Iran strongly denies, insisting the programme is for entirely civilian purposes.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed not to be intimidated by the "fuss" and said he hoped atomic energy would soon "serve the progress" of the country.
"I am telling all the powers that the Iranian nation and government, with firmness and wisdom, will continue its path in seeking and utilizing peaceful nuclear energy," he told supporters in the southern city of Bandar Abbas.
"In the path of nuclear energy, we have started (nuclear fuel) research and God willing, in the near future this energy in its entirety will serve the Iranian nation."
Iran's influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was even more forthright.
"With wisdom we will get our rights, and if they create any trouble for us, they will regret it in the end and Iran will emerge triumphant," said the head of the Expediency Council, Iran's top political arbitration body.
The meeting in Berlin will gather the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, which have been negotiating with Iran over its programme.
"The first thing to do is to secure agreement for a reference to theSecurity Council, if that is indeed what the allies jointly decide, as I think seems likely," Blair told the British parliament.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the participants would consult afterward with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by telephone.
He said the purpose was to decide whether there was still "political room to maneuver" between the European troika and Tehran.
"If the regime in Iran continues on the current course ... there is no other choice but to refer the matter to the (UN) Security Council," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Referral to the UN Security Council normally pass through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
US officials had privately made no secret of their skepticism over the EU's negotiating efforts, but now appear convinced that Washington's tactic of letting the talks run their course has borne fruit in highlighting Tehran's intransigence.
A Western diplomat in Vienna said there was talk of a special board meeting of IAEA governors in about two weeks.
Tehran upped the stakes in its lengthy confrontation with the international community Tuesday when it broke the seals at its Natanz nuclear plant in order to resume research into uranium enrichment.
Seals there and at two other plants were being broken, the IAEA confirmed, with IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei saying Iran had explained that it planned to start "small-scale" uranium enrichment at Natanz.
Enriched uranium can be used to power nuclear power stations but, in highly enriched form, can be used also for atomic weapons.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov declined to speculate on whether the growing confrontation would lead to action by the Security Council, but said things were not moving in a positive direction for anyone.
Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert argued Iran should be referred to the UN body "as soon as possible."
Olmert said that the Jewish state was "concerned about developments in Iran including statements by its leaders regarding Israel," his office reported him as saying in reference to recent remarks by Ahmadinejad questioning its right to exist.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Iran Nuclear Row Coming To A Head Says US Official
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.
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