London's Financial Times reported Monday evening that "leading European governments said they would call for an extraordinary meeting of the U.N.s nuclear watchdog in two weeks time" as a step on the way "to report[ing] Irans nuclear dispute to the United Nations Security Council." -- The Times of London said that "The move means that the spotlight will now fall on the 35 member states of the IAEA, the nuclear watchdog. British diplomats said that they were confident that a simple majority of members would support the referral and were pressing for a large majority, just short of a unanimous vote." -- The International Atomic Energy Agency will meet Feb. 2-3. -- In a separate piece, Bronwen Maddox of the Times wrote that "Russia appears to be alone in thinking Tehran might still accept" a plan whereby Russia "would send Iran the fuel for its nuclear reactors but withhold the technology which would enable it to develop weapons." -- She analyzed the pros and cons of six actions the Security Council might take....
Middle East & Africa
EFFORTS TO PUT IRAN BEFORE U.N. GATHER PACE
By Roula Khalaf (London) and Neil Buckley (Moscow)
Financial Times (UK)
January 16, 2006 - 21:04 UT
Diplomatic efforts to report Irans nuclear dispute to the United Nations Security Council gathered momentum on Monday as leading European governments said they would call for an extraordinary meeting of the U.N.s nuclear watchdog in two weeks time.
After a London meeting of senior foreign ministry officials from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and China, European diplomats appeared confident that Moscow would not block a referral to the U.N. when the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency meets on February 2-3.
Chinas position towards a referral, however, remained unclear.
According to the U.K. Foreign Office, all the participants at Mondays meeting showed serious concern over Iranian moves to restart uranium enrichment activities.
They agreed on the need for Tehran to return to full suspension.
Irans decision to restart nuclear fuel research -- which it had agreed to suspend under a 2004 agreement with the U.K., France, and Germany -- sparked U.S. and European calls for Tehran to be referred to the council. Tehran would face a more authoritative appeal for a resumption of the suspension before the Security Council, and could eventually suffer punitive measures.
The resumption of Irans nuclear activities has frustrated even its traditional allies such as Russia.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, on Monday warned against abrupt, erroneous steps in the international communitys handling of the crisis over Irans nuclear program, but said Russia, the U.S. and Europe held close positions on the issue.
In his first public comments on the crisis, Mr. Putin backed statements from his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, that Russia did not exclude the possibility of referring Iran to the Security Council.
However, speaking after his first talks with Angela Merkel, Germanys new chancellor, Mr. Putin signalled further diplomacy might be needed. He said Tehran had not definitively rejected Moscows proposal to set up a Russian-Iranian joint venture, on Russian territory, to provide fuel for Irans nuclear program.
The London meeting aimed to win backing for a resolution at the IAEA that would refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. Support from Russia and China, two permanent council members, is crucial to prevent deadlock when Irans case is taken up in New York.
China has resisted involving the Security Council in the Iran dispute and yesterday continued to urge caution. But Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief, said he was confident China and Russia would back the EU in sending the issue to the Security Council.
Iran, the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil, insists its nuclear facilities are for the peaceful production of energy but Western governments suspect Tehrans intention is to build nuclear weapons.
GLOBAL POWERS AGREE TO TURN SCREW
** Russia and China are key to the West's plan to refer Iran to the UN Security Council **
January 16, 2006 - 22:30 UT
Britain, France, and Germany announced yesterday that they would seek an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency early next month to have Iran referred to the United Nations Security Council, where Tehran could face sanctions for its controversial nuclear program.
After a day of talks in London with diplomats from America, Russia, and China, the three European powers signalled that the meeting on February 2-3 would mark the end of years of mediation with Tehran. All six nations agreed that Iran must suspend its nuclear programme.
The move means that the spotlight will now fall on the 35 member states of the IAEA, the nuclear watchdog. British diplomats said that they were confident that a simple majority of members would support the referral and were pressing for a large majority, just short of a unanimous vote.
Diplomats said that European officials were already working on the text of a brief IAEA resolution, triggered by Irans decision last week to resume work on uranium enrichment, a key stage in mastering the technology required to build an atomic bomb. One diplomat said: We have begun drafting a resolution. Its short. It calls for (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council.
The big diplomatic hurdle facing the West is to persuade Russia and China, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, to back the move. Javier Solana, the foreign policy chief of the EU, said that he was confident Moscow and Beijing were on board.
Certainly Russia appeared to throw its support behind the West, when President Putin promised to co-operate. As for Russia, and Germany, and our European partners and the United States -- we have very close positions on the Iranian problem, Mr. Putin said after a meeting with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.
We need to move very carefully in this area. I personally do not allow myself a single careless announcement and do not allow the Foreign Ministry to make a single uncertain step, he said.
British diplomats said that they were encouraged by his comments, but said that the situation was still very fluid.
Maintaining the international consensus necessary to isolate Iran is proving difficult and time-consuming. America has for years wanted Irans case sent to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose punitive sanctions on Tehran. Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, said that the time had come to demonstrate to Iran that it cant with impunity cast aside the just demands of the international community..
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that the very act of moving the issue to the U.N. would be enough to make Iran back down without the need to consider sanctions.
He said: I dont think we should rush our fences here. There are plenty of examples where a matter is referred to the Security Council and the Security Council takes action and that action is followed without sanction.
Russia, which has a $1 billion (£560 million) contract to build Irans nuclear reactor as well as lucrative arms deals with Tehran, has been more reluctant to act against its trading partner but now appears willing to work with the West.
Its position is regarded as crucial in determining whether the international community can act in unison. A positive vote by Russia in the IAEA would be important in bringing other wavering states on board. Once the matter reaches the U.N. Security Council, Russias position could again be pivotal. China, which relies heavily on Iran for its energy needs, is cautious about embarking on any measures that could damage its economy. But it rarely challenges a united position by the other permanent members.
Iran appeared to make a conciliatory gesture last night when its Ambassador to Russia praised a proposal to move the uranium enrichment program to Russia.
Foreign Editor's Briefing
TACTICS AND DEALS: THE OPTIONS FOR THE WORLD
By Bronwen Maddox
January 16, 2006
Russia yesterday dangled the possibility that it can still strike a deal with Iran. That is certainly its own fervent hope.
Under its offer, it would send Iran the fuel for its nuclear reactors but withhold the technology which would enable it to develop weapons.
At the moment, Russia appears to be alone in thinking Tehran might still accept this plan -- but if it does, so much the better. But if Iran, as expected, rejects the offer or stalls, then it will almost certainly be hauled before the United Nations Security Council.
And what then? It has become commonplace in the two years of this row to fret over the difficulties of getting tough action from the Council.
Some countries on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. watchdog, have given this as a reason not to refer Iran at all.
But as the moment gets closer, and attention has focused on what the Security Council might do, governments have sketched out a list of options.
In ascending order of toughness, these are:
CENSURE BY THE COUNCIL
Pros: Well worth doing, say British diplomats. They point to the effect that U.N. condemnation of Syrias role in Lebanon has had on Damascus.
Cons: May look feeble.
BAN ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT BY IRAN
Pros: Plugs the gap in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which Iran has adroitly exploited, allowing it legally to develop nuclear power.
Cons: Iran would probably say this contradicts its rights under the NPT, and ignore it.
Ban on travel by Iranian diplomats, and on taking part in sports competitions.
Pros: Costless, yet minded acutely by ordinary Iranians.
Cons: Effects unpredictable. Could turn Iranians against the U.N., not their regime.
ENERGY EQUIPMENT SANCTIONS
Ban on sale of oil and gas technology to Iran.
Pros: Hits Iran where it hurts most -- its ability to make the most of the boom in energy prices. Hardline President Mahmoud Admedinejad was elected on a promise to put oil money on the table of ordinary people.
Cons: Very hard to secure within the Security Council.. Russia above all, which has struck many energy deals with Iran, might feel committed to keeping supplying the kit.
WIDER ECONOMIC SANCTIONS
These would include a ban on trade with Iran in many goods and services. But it would certainly not include a ban on food or medicines.
One European diplomats in Berlin last week for talks about Iran dismissed U.S. media reports that Iran was stockpiling basic goods.
We havent been looking for that; its not the game were in, he said. There is no chance we would deprive ordinary Iranian people of basic necessities.
Pros: A powerful expression of disapproval. Could incite overthrow of the regime.
Cons: Often has the opposite effect -- witness the dislike of the U.N. in Iraq after years of sanctions. It may also be very hard to get Security Council support.
Against Irans nuclear sites.
Pros: Sets back Iran years in developing nuclear weapons.
Cons: Turns Iranians against the West and bolsters the regime. Many sites may be hidden. If strikes are by Israel, counterattacks by Hezbollah in northern Israel are likely.
The U.S.s predicament in Iraq has forced it to work with other countries in trying to thrash out this list of options.
However, U.S. officials make clear that even so, they might consider stitching together a coalition of the willing for some sort of sanctions, if it proved too hard to get the Security Council to agree. That is the next hurdle. But at least the first two steps -- censure, and a ban on Irans uranium enrichment -- would cost the members of the Council nothing, except Irans loathing.