The European Union turned up the pressure on Iran with a draft resolution on Wednesday reporting Tehran's nuclear programme to the United Nations Security Council.

The draft recommends that the Security Council urge Iran to allow the IAEA to inspect any sites it wants to visit, whether or not Iran is legally bound to do so.

 

It also wants the council to tell Iran to resume both talks with the EU and a freeze of sensitive nuclear work that Tehran ended last month.

Russia and China have, however, said the UN nuclear watchdog can handle the issue.

Russian warning

 

Russia, which as a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Council could block any action, warned against antagonising Iran.

Iran is facing pressure at the
IAEA meeting in Vienna

"While Iran is cooperating with the IAEA, while it is not enriching uranium and observing a moratorium, while IAEA inspectors are working in the country, it would be counter-productive to report this question to the UN Security Council," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted on Wednesday as saying.

"It will lead to an unnecessary politicising of the situation. Iran is not violating its obligations and its actions do not threaten the non-proliferation regime," he said in a speech in San Francisco reported by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Russia is building a $1 billion nuclear reactor for Iran and sees it as a key ally in the Middle East.

Big Three

"The Russians are blocking the resolution," said a diplomat from one of the EU Big Three countries - France, Britain and Germany. "If we don't get them on board, or at least abstain, I don't think our resolution will be voted on."

 

"If you use the language of force Iran will have no choice but to ... leave the framework of the NPT ... and to resume enrichment"

Ali Larijani,
Secretary,
Iran's Supreme National Security Council

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator reacted angrily, warning that Tehran might pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and resume uranium enrichment if reported.

"If you use the language of force Iran will have no choice but to ... leave the framework of the NPT ... and to resume enrichment," Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told a news conference.

But Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran Gholamreza Aghazadeh said on the sidelines of the IAEA meeting that Iran was not considering withdrawing from the treaty.

"Leaving the NPT is not on the agenda," he said.

However, Aghazadeh confirmed that Iran had told non-aligned board members, Russia and China that it might restart its uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz and would end short-notice inspections under the IAEA's Additional Protocol if reported.

Larijani said the world's fourth biggest oil producer might link countries' access to its oil to whether they supported Iran.

EU draft

The EU draft asks the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "to report to all members of the Agency and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations ... Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement".

Iran signed the NPT, the benchmark arms control treaty, in

1968.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke of
'nuclear apartheid' in UN speech

The IAEA is required to report breaches of the NPT to the Security Council, which can impose economic sanctions.

 

The US and EU suspect Iran's nuclear fuel programme, which it hid from the IAEA for 18 years, is a front for developing nuclear weapons.

 

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for generating needed electricity and denies seeking nuclear bombs.

Diplomats on the IAEA board, holding its quarterly meeting this week, said the EU draft had been informally distributed to the 35 IAEA board members and could be officially submitted to the board as early as Wednesday.

Opposition


However, the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers, at a meeting in New York attended by the Indian foreign minister, agreed that Iran's nuclear programme could be dealt with within the framework of the IAEA, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"The ministers agreed that the situation surrounding Iran's nuclear programme is not irreversible, and there remains every possibility the problem can be resolved within the IAEA framework," the ministry said in a statement.

 

"There remains every possibility the problem can be resolved within the IAEA framework"

Russian Foreign Ministry

Opposition by other countries such as Brazil and South Africa makes it unclear whether the IAEA board would vote on a resolution this week.

Diplomats said the Russians and Chinese were concerned that the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme would escalate out of control if it went to the Security Council.


At a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Eight countries on Monday, the US, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada all tried to convince Russia of the need to take Iran to the Security Council. But Moscow refused to budge.

"The Russians say that it's seven against one and they don't care," an EU diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Increasing pressure

 

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said that in talks with foreign officials, he found a "strong desire to signal to Iran this week that its actions have not been accepted by the great majority of the international community".

 

The IAEA board meeting will vote
on a resolution this week

He said Iran had become increasingly isolated after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted in a speech to the UN over the weekend on Iran's right to a nuclear programme and denounced Western attempts to curb it as "nuclear apartheid".

"It was seen to be a very harsh and uncompromising speech," Burns said.


Role players

Diplomats on the IAEA board, holding its quarterly meeting this week, said the EU draft had been informally distributed to the 35 IAEA board members and could be officially submitted to the board as early as Wednesday.


Russia is not the only powerful country against the drive to report Iran to the Council.

Opposition by other countries such as Brazil and South Africa also makes it less clear whether the IAEA board will vote on a resolution this week.

The EU draft will probably undergo revisions based on comments from Russia and China, as well as South Africa and the other 13 board members from the Non-Aligned Movement, most of which oppose the idea of a Security Council report.

The EU draft resolution does not mention sanctions.