Nuclear Panel Votes to Report Tehran to UN

The 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted here on Saturday to report Iran's nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council, a move that could change the course of international diplomacy toward Iran and open the door to inte

Nuclear Panel Votes to Report Tehran to UN

The resolution, which passed by a vote of 27 to 3 with five abstentions, reflects increasing suspicion around the world that Iran is determined to develop nuclear weapons.

Cuba, Syria and Venezuela voted against the resolution, which would also delay any concrete Security Council action against Iran for at least a month. Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa abstained.

Iran announced after the vote that it would immediately end its voluntary nuclear cooperation with the agency and that it would begin full-scale production of enriched uranium, which can be used to produce electricity or to help build nuclear bombs. Branding the resolution as "politically motivated," Javad Vaidi, the head of Iran's negotiating team, told reporters that Iran would "immediately bring into force" a law requiring such action.

The vote by the atomic agency is the climax of a two-and-a-half-year campaign by the Bush administration to convince the world that suspicions about Iran's nuclear program are so serious that the issue must come before the Security Council for judgment.

It also signals the failure, at least for now, of the two-and-a-half-year strategy of France, Britain and Germany that was based on the premise that Iran could be coaxed into freezing crucial nuclear activities if the political, technological, economic and security rewards from the West were enticing enough.

"The authorities in Tehran, rather than threatening the world, should listen to the world and take the steps necessary to start regaining its confidence," Gregory Schulte, the American ambassador to the I.A.E.A., told reporters after the vote.

In another statement to reporters, Peter Jenkins, the British ambassador, urged Iran to take the monthlong grace period to change its behavior and "begin rebuilding international confidence" as the only way to restart negotiations.

But Iran's immediate response to the vote cast a pall on that possibility. If Iran carries out its threat, it will severely limit the work of the agency's expert inspectors. They would no longer be allowed to do voluntary spot inspections in Iran and would lose access to important sites, including, for example, Iran's research centers and factories that make parts for the centrifuges that enrich uranium.

The vote in Vienna was a significant victory for the Bush administration, which spent months briefing members of the agency's board on intelligence that it said strongly suggested — but did not prove — that Iran's intent was to develop a weapon. But a senior administration official said on Friday evening, as the outcome of the vote became clear, that "we don't intend to seek sanctions quickly," and said that because intelligence estimates indicated that Iran was still several years away from a bomb, "we have a little time" for diplomacy to work.

At the same time, some administration officials have publicly taken a more hawkish public line in recent days, repeating that President Bush was keeping open all of his options — the code words for reserving the right to take military action if diplomacy fails — as part of the campaign to get the Iranian government to back down.

"A nuclear-armed Iran would represent a direct threat to U.S. forces and allies in the region, the greater Middle East, Europe and Asia, and eventually to the United States itself," Robert Joseph, under secretary of state for international security, said in a speech earlier this week that had been cleared by senior officials in the administration. "At a minimum, it could seek to use nuclear weapons as a powerful tool of intimidation and blackmail."

It is conceivable, although highly unlikely, that Iran will take the bold steps necessary to convince the team of nuclear inspectors at the I.A.E.A. as well as the international community that it is a reliable negotiating partner that can be trusted.

So suddenly, the United States will have to decide what comes next. Thus far the Bush administration has signaled only that it favors a go-slow approach based on diplomacy, not military force, and ruling out immediate sanctions or other punitive measures.

In a concession to Russia and China, which had initially resisted any Security Council involvement, the resolution delayed for another month any action in the Council that would criticize or punish Iran.

That reflects the deadline Iran had been given since November to meet I.A.E.A. demands before the agency presents its next formal assessment of Iran's nuclear program in early March.

The resolution calls for the immediate suspension of all activities related to the enrichment of uranium, which can be used to make electricity or in making nuclear bombs.

It also recalls Iran's "many failures and breaches of its obligations" under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and "the absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes resulting from the history of concealment of Iran's nuclear activities."

The resolution came at the end of a three-day emergency session of the decision-making board following Iran's reopening last month of a small part of its nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz for what it called "research purposes."

Even though Iran has yet to operate any of the machinery or process any uranium material there, its reopening violates a November 2004 agreement with France, Britain and Germany in which Iran agreed to freeze its enrichment-related activities. But that action was voluntary, and when the Europeans did not deliver concrete rewards in the way Iran expected, Iran concluded that it had been duped.

The resolution was passed after the United States agreed late Friday to a clause indirectly criticizing Israel's secret nuclear weapons status. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had rejected any compromise, arguing that Iran would use the clause for propaganda purposes to criticize Israel, which unlike Iran did not sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and suffers no consequences as a nuclear power, diplomats in Vienna and American officials said.

But even the United States' closest European allies demanded the clause, which had been demanded by Egypt and also enjoyed the support of Russia and China. Isolated, the United States backed down.

The clause stated, "A solution to the Iranian issue would contribute to global nonproliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery."

Egypt and other Arab states routinely demand references to a "nuclear-free zone" in the Middle East in Security Council documents, arguing that Israel should be part of a general security framework in the Middle East that bans such weapons.In recent years, the nuclear agency's board has reported Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Romania to the Security Council for possible censure because of their nuclear programs. But such action does not necessarily translate into action.

North Korea, which secretly built nuclear weapons and withdrew from the nonproliferation treaty three years ago, has been reported twice. Although the Security Council has denounced North Korea, it has never voted to punish it.

The vote on Saturday was particularly important because it enjoys the backing of Russia and China, which had abstained in the last resolution on Iran in September. In that resolution, Iran was found in formal "noncompliance" with its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which under I.A.E.A. statutes can be interpreted to mean that its case means that requires, among other things, that Iran disclose its atomic activities. Russia and China had rejected that formulation, and it was dropped this time.

Among those backing the resolution on Saturday was India, which had been pressured by the United States to vote yes if it expected to finalize a deal to obtain crucial nuclear technology, but will face intense domestic political opposition because of the decision.

Brazil, which has its own nuclear enrichment program similar to that of Iran, also voted in favor of the resolution, despite initial reservations that it could sent a precedent for countries like it.

The countries that voted in favor of the resolution were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Britain, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Japan, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, the United States and Yemen.

Source: Nytimes

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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