Monday, September 19, 2005

Iran's nuclear crisis: What's next ?

NY Times explains:

...American and European officials acknowledged that even after Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech they still might not have the votes for an immediate Security Council referral, which was their original aim, and might settle for a resolution that declared Iran's nuclear program to be out of compliance with agency rules. That resolution would have no binding effect, but could strengthen a later resolution in the Security Council.

European officials began work on a draft resolution yesterday. But some of the diplomats acknowledged that they did not know whether the speech had changed the minds of many countries that had opposed referral to the Security Council, or simply hardened the views of those already in favor. As a result, the exact wording of the resolution is not likely to be completed until late next week, the officials said, when they can judge the mood of the atomic agency's governing board.

A European diplomat involved in the negotiations said the European allies did not want to pass a resolution opposed by Russia, which holds a veto on the Security Council.

"It's not a question of how many votes we get," the diplomat said. "It's a question of who is going to vote." The diplomat was in effect saying there would not be a consensus resolution, which is customary on the atomic energy agency board. But what is important now, the official added, is that "this must not result in a split between Europe on one side" and Russia and other nonaligned countries on the other.

For several weeks, the United States and its European allies have been pushing the 35 members of the atomic energy agency to support referring Iran to the Security Council. Last month, Iran began reprocessing uranium in defiance of the United Nations, and Western officials maintained that the country had been secretly working on a nuclear weapons program.

But at the end of last week, officials acknowledged that they did not have the votes for anything more than a slim majority at the atomic energy agency. Such a vote would leave them in a weak position within the Security Council, where China also holds a veto.

"Ultimately there is going to be a referral to the Security Council," Mr. Burns said in an interview yesterday with BBC News. He had just come from a meeting with his French, German and English counterparts, where they discussed Iran. "Whether it's this week, next week or next month," he said, is simply a matter "of tactics."

Also:

Times of London-Majority backs referring Iran to UN:

MOST members of the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) favour referring Iran to the UN Security Council because of its nuclear programme, British diplomats said yesterday.

As member states of the nuclear watchdog met in Vienna to decide how to respond to Tehran’s defiant stand, British, French and German officials lobbied for possible international sanctions against Iran.

A British diplomat said: “We have a critical mass of support (for referral).” He said that the approach set out by President Ahmadinejad in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Saturday had hardened attitudes towards Tehran.

About 20 countries are now thought to favour referral, including all European Union states, America, Australia, Singapore and Peru. Twelve of the Non-Aligned Movement states are opposed but may be persuaded to abstain. The strongest opponent, Russia, says that matters concerning Iran’s nuclear programme should be dealt with only by the IAEA.

The Bush Administration, which has long campaigned to have Iran referred to the UN, said that the move was “long overdue”. Gregory Schulte, the US envoy to the IAEA, said: “The board had wanted Iran to pursue a course of co-operation and negotiation. Instead, Iran appears to be pursuing a course of rhetoric and confrontation while continuing the fuel-cycle activities that give us such concern.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, said that diplomacy may yet achieve compromise and that “the ball was in Iran’s court”.

Mohammad Akhondzadeh, the Iranian delegate, said that Iran’s intention was “peace, peace and peace”.