Still, in what appeared to be an attempt to show cooperation with the West, Iran handed over documents last week on casting uranium into the shape of a warhead to the UN nuclear agency, diplomats in Vienna revealed.

 

At a London meeting that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday, envoys of Britain, China, France, Russia and the US decided they would recommend that at its Thursday meeting the International Atomic Energy Agency should report Iran to the UN Security Council.

 

They also decided the Security Council should wait until the agency issues a formal report on Iran in March before tackling the issue.

 

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, on Tuesday reproached Europe for the London decision.

 

"Reporting Iran's dossier to the UN Security Council will be unconstructive and the end of diplomacy," he said, according to state-run television.

 

"Europeans should pay more attention. Iran has called for dialogue and is moving in the direction of reaching an agreement through peaceful means," Larijani said.

 

"The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn't welcome this. We still think that this issue can be resolved peacefully. We recommend them not to do it."

 

Cut in cooperation

 

Larijani also threatened to limit cooperation with the UN's atomic energy watchdog and put an end to reinforced UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.

 

"If the Security Council is informed or seized over Iran's nuclear case, we will be obliged - in accordance with the law passed by parliament - to end all voluntary measures and cease the application of the additional protocol," Ali Larijani said.

 

Aghazadeh said there was no
legal justification against Iran

 Iran has previously threatened to stop allowing surprise IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities if it is put before the Security Council.

 

Iran's parliament has passed a law requiring the government to stop such cooperation and resume large-scale uranium enrichment in case of referral to the Council.

 

Iran insists it has the right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to build nuclear power stations and produce fuel by enriching its own uranium.

 

But the US and Europe suspect Iran aims to use enrichment to produce nuclear weapons, an accusation Iran denies.

 

Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also runs Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said there was no "legal justification to refer Iran to the UN Security Council", according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency.

 

In Vienna, Iran's oil minister said the gathering storm over the nuclear issue would not affect Iran's oil policy.

 

"We have no reason to stop our exports" because of the nuclear issue, Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said before Tuesday's meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. "From our point of view there's no link between the two."

 

Failure

 

"Reporting Iran's dossier to the UN Security Council will be unconstructive and the end of diplomacy"

Ali Larijani,
Iran's top nuclear negotiator

British, French and German representatives met Larijani's deputy, Javad Vaedi, in Brussels on Tuesday for last-ditch talks on the dispute, but failed to make any progress.

 

The decision by Russia and China to vote for referral surprised observers as they have consistently counselled caution on Iran's nuclear file. Both have major economic ties with Iran.

 

In an apparent attempt to reassure Tehran, Russia underlined that referral to the Security Council will not mean immediate action.

 

"The Security Council will not make any decisions," Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said.

 

Russian and Chinese diplomats will head to Tehran shortly to explain the meaning of the agreement reached in London and urge Iran to meet IAEA demands, he said, according to the RIA-Novosti news agency.

 

Moscow is trying to prevent the referral from scuttling negotiations that it hopes will persuade Iran to accept a compromise proposal - that Iranian uranium enrichment take place on Russian territory.