Efforts by U.S. and EU3 diplomats to refer the matter of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council appear to be failing. -- Reuters reported that Russia's International Atomic Energy Agency ambassador said at a closed-door IAEA meeting in Vienna Thursday that his country was "decisively opposed to an artificial exacerbation of the situation, including the transfer of this question to the U.N. Security Council." -- China, another nation with a Security Council veto, is also opposed. -- As a result, the EU3 contingent "dropped a demand from their draft IAEA resolution that would force the board to report Iran now to the U.N. Security Council." -- A member of Iran's IAEA delegation called the latest developments "a significant victory for Iran." -- The EU3 countries, with U.S. encouragement, continue to push for a resolution that criticizes "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, accuses Iran of "excessive concealment, misleading information, and delays," and expresses concern that Iran has failed to "re-establish full suspension of all enrichment-related activities, as a separate Reuters piece detailed. -- But Russia is opposed to this resolution as well: "This text is like a plane that cannot fly," Russia's ambassador said. ...
RUSSIA, EU DEADLOCK OVER IRAN
By Louis Charbonneau and François Murphy
September 22, 2005
VIENNA -- Russia and the European Union's three main powers were deadlocked at the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Thursday, unable to agree on how to deal with an Iranian atomic program that the West fears is aimed at making weapons.
For two years, France, Britain, and Germany have tried to persuade the Islamic republic that it needs to abandon its nuclear fuel program to convince the world that its atomic ambitions are peaceful as Tehran insists they are.
While these talks continued, the EU trio, Russia, China, and other board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) repeatedly rejected Washington's attempts to bring Iran's case to the U.N.'s highest body, which could impose sanctions.
Last month, the talks collapsed after Tehran restarted uranium processing and rejected an EU offer of economic and political incentives if it scrapped its uranium enrichment programme, prompting the EU trio to join Washington in calling for the case to be sent to the Security Council.
But the Western drive to haul a defiant Iran before the Council has met fierce resistance by two permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council, China and Russia.
"We are decisively opposed to an artificial exacerbation of the situation, including the transfer of this question to the U.N. Security Council," Russia's IAEA ambassador Grigory Berdennikov told the IAEA board at a closed-door meeting.
Bowing to Russian and Chinese pressure, France, Britain, and Germany dropped a demand from their draft IAEA resolution that would force the board to report Iran now to the U.N. Security Council over fears it wants atom bombs, EU diplomats said.
Rather than sending the case immediately to the Security Council, the new draft obliges the board to send the matter to U.N. headquarters in New York at a later, undefined date.
Russia rejected this second version, saying it refused to allow the issue to go before the Security Council at all.
"This text is like a plane that cannot fly," Berdennikov was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.
Simply being on the Security Council's agenda can be embarrassing in itself, since it is the world's top body charged with monitoring global peace and security. It can issue anything from verbal warnings to travel restrictions for officials or even impose a total trade embargo on countries if it chooses.
Iran claimed victory, saying that opposition from Russia, China, and the non-aligned developing nations on the IAEA board of governors had forced the EU to back down.
"The EU's withdrawal was a significant victory for Iran," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and member of Iran's IAEA delegation, told Reuters.
But EU diplomats said they were determined to bring Iran to the Security Council and were still trying to persuade Moscow, whose support diplomats say is key to reaching a consensus.
The Russians would be willing to accept the revised draft if it removed any language forcing the 35-member IAEA board to report Iran to the Security Council, diplomats said.
But one EU diplomat said that was "non-negotiable."
If Russia continued to oppose it, the Europeans might submit their original draft, which called for an immediate Council report, to the IAEA board and demand a vote, diplomats said.
The EU wants consensus, not merely the backing of the 20 or 21 countries that support the original resolution. Among the 35 board members, China, Russia, and at least a dozen others oppose the EU draft, though diplomats said some would abstain.
"The question is, can we live with a Russian 'no' vote. That's what we have to decide," an EU diplomat said.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Lindsay Beck in Beijing, Madeline Chambers in London, Oliver Bullough in Moscow and James Mackenzie in Berlin)
EUROPEANS DROP HARSHER STANCE ON IRAN
By George Jahn
** EU Offers to Delay Push to Bring Iran Before U.N. Security Countil if Resolution Can Be Brokered **
September 22, 2005
[PHOTO CAPTION: Iranian elite Revolutionary Guards commander, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, right, points as he speaks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, second right, as Chief of the General Staff of Armed Forces, General Hasan Firouzabadi, left, listens, during a parade ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the outset of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005. A bodyguard of the President Ahmadinejad stands second left.]
VIENNA -- The European Union on Thursday offered to delay its drive to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council for its suspect atomic activities if Russia and China will agree to a new resolution that criticizes Tehran for violating nuclear commitments.
If an agreement is not reached, however, the EU, backed by the United States, planned to force a vote on the tougher resolution.
The new U.S.-backed European offer was contained in a text threatening Tehran only with referral to the Security Council at a later date. The previous EU draft resolution which also remained on the table urged the 35 nations on the International Atomic Energy Agency board of directors to report Iran to the U.N.'s highest decision-making body during the board's current session.
Neither version mentions sanctions, in recognition that veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China were opposed.
Diplomats familiar with the West's strategy said the Europeans were keeping both options alive, urging the more than a dozen board members opposed to referral to accept the toned-down version or face the prospect of having the board vote on the earlier hard-line text. The diplomats spoke on condition of [anonymity] because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
While not directly asking for Security Council referral, the new text finds Iran in noncompliance of commitments to the IAEA that would normally warrant such action.
And it holds out the threat of future referral, saying that the next board meeting "will address the timing and content" of a new IAEA report on Iran's nuclear activities to see if it gives reason to decide that Iran is still violating agency rules that mandate hauling it before the council.
The earlier draft requests directly that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei report to the Security Council "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The draft also asks the council to expand IAEA inspection powers in Iran and to request that Tehran resume a recently broken freeze on activities linked to uranium enrichment the possible pathway to nuclear weapons.
A senior diplomat from a nonaligned country opposed to referral said the new draft also would likely be unacceptable to a large majority of those opposing the earlier version because it would ask the board to accept that Iran is in noncompliance of its IAEA obligations. That wording would help supporters of referral in any later attempt to push for Security Council involvement.
Strong language that still remained in the new draft also was expected to run into opposition.
It accuses Iran of "excessive concealment, misleading information and delays" in giving IAEA experts probing its program information and access to nuclear materials as they look for signs that Tehran's might be hiding a nuclear weapons program.
It expresses serious concern that Iran has failed to "re-establish full suspension of all enrichment-related activities," an allusion to international concerns that over last month's resumption by Tehran of uranium conversion a prelude to enrichment, which in turn is a possible pathway to nuclear arms.
The draft is formally a European Union initiative but is being orchestrated in close consultation with Washington and backed by Australia, Japan, Canada, and others.
A diplomat familiar with U.S. thinking said acceptance by the board of the toned-down draft would suit Washington, which was not interested in a Security Council battle it could not win against veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China a view indirectly confirmed from Washington.
"Our goal is to build the broadest possible consensus," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Wednesday.
The threat of referral is not being withdrawn. "It is a question of not if, but when" the contentious issue will go to the council, Ereli said.
A European official, who also requested anonymity as a condition for discussing EU strategy, said "the key is to gain Russia, and we think we can gain Russia at a later date."
Gregory Schulte, the U.S. chief representative to the IAEA, told reporters that while "reporting Iran's noncompliance to the U.N. Security Council is long overdue . . . we support the European Union's effort to continue to develop the broadest possible consensus."
In Moscow on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry dismissed the earlier U.S. and European Security Council initiative as counterproductive, saying it "will not contribute to the search for a solution to the Iranian problem through political and diplomatic means."
Washington insists Iran has breached the treaty. Iran insists it has not done so, and Tehran has warned that if referred to the Security Council, it could start uranium enrichment. It also said it could stop allowing unfettered IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities and programs if the board involves the Security Council.