Full Coverages>World>Iran Nuke Issue>US

US, Europe won't push for move on Iran
Updated: 2005-11-22 09:01

Washington and its European allies will forgo pushing for Iran's referral to the U.N. Security Council later this week, giving Russia more time in persuading Tehran to give up technology that could make nuclear arms, diplomats and officials told The Associated Press on Monday.

For the Americans and the European Union, the plan holds the promise of success even if Iran continues to reject the proposal that would move its uranium enrichment program to Russia.

The acceptance of that plan, in theory, would deprive the Iranians of the chance to enrich uranium to weapons grade, suitable for use in the core of nuclear warheads.

But if the Russians fail to win over the Iranians, Washington and the Europeans hope Moscow and other key board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency now opposed to Security Council referral will moderate their opposition.

The comments by the diplomats and U.S. and European government officials came three days before the IAEA board meets to ponder options on Iran that at least formally still included a decision on Security Council action.

But the diplomats and U.S. and European government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the strategy on Iran is confidential, said referral was now off the table at the meeting.

Instead, they said Washington as well as Britain, France and Germany — representing the European Union — would probably settle for a statement critical of recent IAEA findings showing the Iranians in possession of what appeared to be drawings of the core of an atomic warhead and of other worrying nuclear activities.

In Washington, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said negotiations were in "a period of great fluidity diplomatically."

US, Europe won't push for move on Iran
Iranian students arrive to create a human chain around the Natanz uranium enrichment facility during a rally to show support for Iran's nuclear programme, in Natanz, 217 miles south of the captial Tehran, November 18, 2005.[Reuters/file]
Burns, who held talks with the Europeans in London last week — and also, he said, with Russian and Chinese officials — said the Bush administration had "a fairly hardline view" of Iran's activities, but noted that the United States was not handling the negotiations.

"It's going to have to be up to the EU-3 to decide now how do they want to proceed," he said.

Iran says it only wants to enrich to lower levels to generate energy. Still, it has resisted the plan to move enrichment to Russia since it was floated several weeks ago, insisting it has the right to all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Iran in August resumed uranium reprocessing, which is one step before uranium enrichment.

European Union foreign ministers urged Iran on Monday to live up to "clear obligations" to allow U.N. inspectors to see its nuclear facilities. On Sunday, Iran's parliament voted to require the government to block any in-depth U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities if Iran is referred to the Security Council.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he hoped to avoid a showdown with Tehran. "We still have time to continue work."

The EU ministers were working on a common position before Thursday's meeting at the IAEA headquarters.

Russia, Iran's key partner in building Tehran's first nuclear power plant, has considerable clout with Tehran, but the officials and diplomats said other considerations also went into the decision to postpone a showdown on referral at the board meeting opening Thursday.

Belarus, Cuba and Syria joined Venezuela on the IAEA board in September. With those anti-U.S. nations on board, any vote on referral would be more strongly opposed than the resolution passed at the last board meeting two months ago that cleared the path for hauling Iran before the council by declaring its past activities in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

A vote with fewer nations in support of referral than in September "would look like a step backward," the U.S. official said.

With President Bush under growing criticism from the war in Iraq, his administration was ready to wait and build international consensus over what to do about Iran rather than settle for the negative implication of a narrow board vote on referral, he suggested.

A European diplomat in Brussels also suggested the U.S.-European coalition was willing to wait to see the Russian plan succeed — or if it failed, to hope for extra support for referral from key board nations such as Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa and others that now oppose such a move.

"They're trying to build a wider coalition," she said of the waiting game.

Moscow's support is particularly important. It and China wield vetoes on the Security Council, and as such could cripple any attempt to pressure Iran to compromise on its nuclear activities through sanctions or political pressure.

Before the board meeting, the Americans have begun to draft a resolution setting a timetable for Iran to accept the plan involving enrichment in Russia and related issues — and threatening with Security Council referral unless those conditions were met, the diplomats and officials said.

Still, that document was unlikely to see the light of day, they said, with the meeting likely agreeing on a statement criticizing Iran on a broad range of suspect nuclear issues.

  Story Tools