Pressure on Iran mounts over nukes


Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at 8:52 p.m.
VIENNA, Austria - Pressure on Iran intensified Tuesday, with key European countries and the United States moving ahead with plans to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council and Israel vowing not to let the Iranians develop nuclear weapons.
But Russia and China - Iran's past backers - urged negotiations instead of confrontation, casting doubt on whether next month's International Atomic Energy Agency meeting will demonstrate a unified political will.
A meeting Monday in London produced no agreement among the United States, France, Britain and Germany and Moscow and Beijing on whether to refer the dispute over Iranian nuclear enrichment to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
Past opposition to such action by Russia and China led the Europeans and the United States to postpone referral.
Russia and China have joined Europe and the U.S. in criticizing Iran's resumption of uranium enrichment. But both would prefer to avoid Security Council involvement and are outright opposed to sanctions.
A draft text by Britain proposing referral when the IAEA's 35-nation board of directors meets Feb. 2 reflected deference to the Russians and Chinese, stopping short of calls for punitive measures.
Instead, the text, read in part to The Associated Press by a European diplomat accredited to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, urges the 15-nation council to press Tehran "to extend full and prompt cooperation to the agency" in its investigation of suspect nuclear activities. It also asks the council to make clear "that additional transparency measures are indispensable" if Iran hopes to prove it does not want to make nuclear weapons.
The diplomat agreed to share the confidential information only on condition of anonymity. The wording of the text is sure to change ahead of the IAEA meeting. Still, the fact that it was calling on the council to send Iran's nuclear file back to the IAEA provided the latest indication the country could escape sanctions.
U.S. State Department spokesman Seam McCormack suggested Washington would push to have Iran hauled before the Security Council no matter what the Russians and Chinese thought.
"We have the votes for a referral to the Security Council, and we believe that that is the action the IAEA is going to take when they meet in February," he said. "Whether or not the Russians vote with the rest of the world is up to them."
"I will refer you to Russian officials, Chinese officials or any other particular country about how they may vote at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting."

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