Iran To Face Security Council
Sunday, February 5, 2006
VIENNA, Feb. 4 -- Members of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted Saturday to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over concerns that the country is trying to develop nuclear weapons, decisively ending Iran's years-long effort to forestall action that could lead to further pressure on Tehran.
The 35-member IAEA board sent a resolution to the highest U.N. body, expressing "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear ambitions after nearly three years of trying to verify whether the country was pursuing a nuclear program for civilian or military purposes.
In response to the IAEA vote, Iran announced that it would resume its uranium enrichment activities and would no longer allow IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.
The decision, 27 to 3, handed the United States and European countries a diplomatic victory. Russia and China were initially reluctant to report Iran to the council but joined the stepped-up campaign after demanding that any action against Iran be deferred at least until March. In the end, just three countries -- Syria, Cuba and Venezuela -- voted against the measure. Five countries abstained.
The vote left unclear what action Iran might face. The Security Council could impose economic sanctions or an oil embargo against Iran. But Russia and China, which as permanent members of the council wield veto power, have expressed strong opposition to any significant punitive measures. U.S. and European diplomats have said that they envision a "graduated" diplomatic approach to slowly build pressure on Iran.
In forwarding the matter to the Security Council, the board's resolution cited "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes resulting from the history of concealment."
The resolution signifies "a continuing lack of confidence in Iran's nuclear intentions," said British envoy Peter Jenkins. "Board members simply cannot understand why Iran is so determined to press on with its enrichment program." Some forms of enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons, though Iran maintains its research will be used only to produce electrical power.
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, chastised the IAEA governing board for yielding to "political pressure of a few countries and without any legal justification."
"As of Sunday, the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol and other cooperation beyond the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has to be suspended under the law," Ahmadinejad said in a letter to Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also is the head of the Iran's nuclear agency, Reuters reported.
In Washington, President Bush said in a statement that "the path chosen by Iran's new leaders -- threats, concealment, and breaking international agreements and IAEA seals -- will not succeed and will not be tolerated by the international community."
Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns called the vote "a powerful message of condemnation" and a "clear rebuke" of Iran.
"Diplomacy is now in a new phase," he told reporters in a conference call, warning that the Iranian government faces tough decisions in the coming month. "I cannot say we are filled with hope the Iranians will do the right thing."