Iran Threatens to Block U.N. Inspections

By John Ward Anderson and Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 13, 2006; 10:00 AM

PARIS, Jan. 13 -- Iran threatened Friday to block U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities and end all voluntary cooperation if it is referred to the U.N. Security Council as the long confrontation over Iran's nuclear program escalated.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, quoted by the state-run news agency IRNA, said 2 1/2 years of talks over Iran's nuclear issue would then end. He said it is up to France, Britain and Germany to make that decision.

"The Iranian government will have to stop all its voluntary cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog" if the case is referred to the United Nations Security Council, Mottaki said. Mottaki insisted that Iran's "right to access nuclear technology is not associated with the will of any particular country." Last year, Iran's parliament passed a law mandating that cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, be terminated if it was sent to the Security Council.

Iran's latest threats came one day after the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France called for Tehran to be referred to the Security Council for violating its nuclear treaty obligations, saying that their long negotiations reached a dead end this week when the Iranians resumed enriching uranium.

The issue came to a head Tuesday when Iran, under the supervision of inspectors from the IAEA, broke the agency's seals on a nuclear plant in Natanz to resume uranium enrichment research. Highly-enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear bombs.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also endorsed a Security Council referral. "There is simply no peaceful rationale for the Iranian regime to resume uranium enrichment," she told reporters Thursday.

But in a new sign of the twists and turns of this lengthy confrontation, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, had told him Wednesday in a 40-minute telephone conversation that the Islamic republic was "interested in serious and constructive negotiations," but with a deadline. Annan said he would try to settle the dispute so that it would not reach the council.

U.S. and European officials suggested Larijani was trying to buy time by recycling arguments that failed during negotiations. The Iranians have said repeatedly since the summer that they want successful talks but only if the outcome ensures Iran could go forward with large-scale uranium enrichment.

Foreign Minister Mottaki told the state-run news agency Friday that Iran was prepared to continue talks if the European countries showed a "sensible attitude" toward what he called Iran's "right" to conduct nuclear research. He called for the three European countries to show "forbearance and patience."

In a news conference in Berlin, the three European diplomats said they would ask the board of the IAEA to convene an emergency meeting in Vienna and refer Iran to the Security Council, a major escalation in the world of diplomacy. Top diplomats from the E.U. countries, Russia, China and the United States will meet in London on Monday to discuss the timing of an IAEA meeting, which Western officials said could take place in about two weeks.

The European diplomats said in a joint statement that Iran had spurned all offers from the outside world for better relations in exchange for continuing to refrain from uranium enrichment activities.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that even the United States, which broke off relations with Iran in 1979 after students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, had offered significant incentives. The United States agreed last spring to lift its embargo on the shipment of aircraft parts to Iran and to stop blocking its efforts to joint the World Trade Organization in exchange for Iran shelving its nuclear programs.

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