Wed, Apr 26, 2006 - Page 6 News List

West seeks to press Iran at UN

LOGGERHEADS Russia and China, however, are said to want to delay pressure tactics, while Tehran has warned it would cut relations with the IAEA if sanctions were imposed

AGENCIES , UNITED NATIONS AND TEHRAN

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, left, who is also secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, talks with influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at a conference on Iran's nuclear activities in Tehran yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

With Russia and China opposed to sanctions against Iran, the West wants to ratchet up pressure bit by bit in the UN Security Council next week in a bid to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

But China and Russia are contemplating a meeting of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before any UN consideration of a report due by Friday from IAEA director Mohammed ElBaradei.

"There are proposals that the IAEA board of directors should have a meeting first before the council takes it up," China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya (王光亞), told reporters on Monday.

In Berlin, a European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia and China wanted to emphasize the primacy of the Vienna-based IAEA board.

The envoy, who was not authorized to speak to reporters, said the aim was to delay UN action until after an IAEA board meeting in June to slow down any US drive for sanctions.

In Tehran, an Iranian official said yesterday that the country would halt relations with the UN atomic watchdog if sanctions were imposed and vowed that a military attack would merely send its activities underground.

The Islamic regime's national security chief Ali Larijani also refused to rule out using oil as a weapon in the worsening international standoff, warning of "important consequences" for energy supplies if Iran was subjected to "radical measures."

"If you decide to use sanctions against us, our relations with the agency will be suspended," Larijani said of the IAEA.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran for more than three years, and any cut in ties would spell an end to international inspections and monitoring of nuclear facilities inside the Islamic republic.

"Military action against Iran will not lead to the closure of the program," Larijani said. "If you take harsh measures, we will hide this program. Then you cannot solve the nuclear issue.

"You may inflict a loss on us but you will lose also," he warned.

Iran is the world's fourth largest crude producer and the second-biggest in OPEC.

The US and its allies suspect Iran is trying to build an atomic bomb under cover of a civilian nuclear program. Tehran says its program is for energy purposes only.

The Security Council passed a statement last month asking ElBaradei to report simultaneously to the council and the IAEA board by April 28 on whether Iran has halted enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear warheads.

As a first step, Western powers want a council resolution that would turn demands made in last month's statement into a legally binding measure under the Chapter 7 provision of the UN Charter. The council's statement, which also asks Iran to answer outstanding questions on its program, was based on earlier resolutions by the IAEA board.

"Our expectation would be -- assuming no change of direction by Iran, and there is no reason to think there will be a change of direction -- that we will look at a Chapter 7 resolution to make mandatory all of the existing IAEA resolutions," US Ambassador John Bolton said on Monday.

"We are going to wait for the April 28 report. We are in consultations now and will be this week on the timing and the handling of the resolution," Bolton said.

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