VIENNA, Austria (AP) – The United States and European allies said Wednesday that Iran’s nuclear intransigence left the world no choice but to ask for Security Council action, as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board focused on Tehran’s refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.
The meeting is in effect the last step before the Security Council begins to consider Iran’s nuclear activities and fears they could be misused to make weapons. It began with both Iran and nations which oppose its enrichment plans sticking to their positions, reflecting deadlock that has led the IAEA board to call on the U.N. Security Council to get involved.
“The time has now come for the Security Council to act,” declared Gregory Schulte, the U.S. delegate to the IAEA. He listed Iran’s decision to curtail agency inspections, its expanding uranium enrichment program and worrying conclusions by IAEA inspectors that suggest at least past interest in nuclear arms, as contributing to “mounting international concerns” about Tehran’s nuclear intentions.
“Iran has still not come clean,” he said, listing Tehran’s possession of plans that could only be used to make nuclear warheads, links between its nuclear programs and the military and its determination to develop a large-scale enrichment program that could be misused to make nuclear arms.
“IAEA inspectors have no doubt this information was expressly intended for the fabrication of nuclear weapons components,” said Schulte of documents showing how to form fissile material into warheads.
Separately, France, Germany and Britain, which spearheaded the Feb. 4 IAEA resolution clearing the path for Security Council action once this week’s meeting ends, warned that what is known about Iran’s enrichment program could represent only “the tip of the iceberg.”
“And … it was a part of the iceberg, below the water that … did (for) the Titanic,» said a draft statement by the three European countries, meant for later delivery. It also spoke of “indicators of a possible military dimension to Iran’s (nuclear) program,” as “a legitimate source of intense concern.”
“We believe that the time has … come for the U.N. Security Council to reinforce the authority” of the IAEA and its board, said the EU3 statement.
Austria, which holds the EU presidency, expressed regret at Iran’s decisions to withhold “voluntary cooperation” from IAEA inspectors probing 21 years of Iranian nuclear activity, including 18 years of clandestine work and resuming uranium enrichment, which can be part of a process to make nuclear weapons.
The Austrian comments were made in a statement prepared for delivery on behalf of the European Union and nearly a dozen nonmember European nations. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remained defiant: “Our nation has made its decision to fully use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and all have to give in to this decision made by the Iranian nation,” he said in Iran. “We have made our choice.”
His comments, and U.S. and Russian statements the day before rejecting any compromise that would allow Tehran to enrich uranium domestically, set the stage for Security Council action once the IAEA board meeting hears a report on the latest investigations into Iran’s nuclear program and debates the issue.
Washington warned Tuesday of “meaningful consequences” if Iran does not back away from an international confrontation over its nuclear program. It also rejected any potential last-minute compromise to allow Iran to develop nuclear fuel that could be used for weapons.
However Russia and China, which have Security Council vetoes, may use them to foil any resolution in that chamber that would meaningfully increase pressure on Iran, their political and economic ally.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing appealed for more negotiations, suggesting the Security Council’s involvement was not needed.