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Iran issue to be referred to Security Council
Move will kill diplomatic efforts: Iran
H.S. Rao

London, January 31
Two days ahead of the crucial IAEA meeting to discuss Iran's controversial nuclear programme, key powers in a surprise move have agreed to refer the issue to the UN Security Council but decided to put off any action by the world body until March in a compromise with Russia and China who favoured giving more time to Tehran.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced the decision here yesterday after a meeting of the five permanent council members—USA, Russia, Britain, China and France—and Germany after talks with Iran earlier in the day failed to produce a breakthrough.

The Foreign Ministers of the six countries met on Monday night to co-ordinate their position ahead of an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Thursday. If the board agrees to refer it to the Security Council, Iran may face sanctions.

But Mr Straw said the Foreign Ministers decided that the council would take no action until March, after it had received a formal report on Iran from the IAEA.

Meanwhile, Iran said today that the move by the world’s top five powers to report it to the U.N. Security Council would close diplomatic avenues to a solution of its long-running nuclear standoff with the West.

Britain, China, France, Russia and the USA, with Germany and the European Union agreed in London that the UN’s nuclear watchdog should report to the council this week on what Iran must do to cooperate with the agency.

Iran reacted angrily to the new pressure and said even reporting its case to the council would kill off diplomatic efforts to resolve the row over a nuclear programme that Tehran says is purely peaceful, not military as the West suspects.

“We consider any referral or report of Iran to the Security Council as the end of diplomacy,” Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and its chief nuclear negotiator, told state television.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the agreement to involve the council as a powerful signal to Iran. “I hope it’s sending a message that the international community is united,” Blair told Reuters Television. “This is going to be discussed and decided upon by the UN Security Council. That is a very important step. We couldn’t get agreement on that before, we’ve got agreement on it now”.

However, with Russia and China opposed to hasty action, the agreement delayed any decision on formal referral of Iran to the council, where it could face sanctions, until after a scheduled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting on March 6.

“A compromise was reached between the participants,” a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

In a joint statement after their late-night talks in London, the Foreign Ministers said they had agreed that an emergency meeting of the IAEA board on Thursday “should report to the Security Council its decision on the steps required for Iran”. — PTI

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