UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -Iran”s new president will unveil proposals on Saturday meant to disarm international concern over its nuclear ambitions with Western powers poised to haul Tehran before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
What President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells the U.N. General Assembly may determine whether the world nuclear watchdog moves next week to report Iran”s secretive atomic program to the highest U.N. body, the diplomats said.
The United States and Europe suspect Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, but Iran swears its program, concealed from the International Atomic Energy Agency for 18 years, is purely for civilian energy purposes.
Iran last month spurned a European package of economic, security and technology incentives for it to abandon sensitive nuclear work and reactivated a factory converting uranium ore into gas, prompting the European Union to break off talks.
"We expect Ahmadinejad to propose some kind of complex internationalization of the issue, but if they stick to their determination to do uranium enrichment, they are heading for the Security Council," a European diplomat said.
On the eve of the speech, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw conferred on diplomatic tactics to increase pressure on Iran.
"They consulted on the ongoing diplomatic process concerning referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council for its continuing violations of its international obligations," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
Rice, who prompted doubts about the timing of a referral vote with comments this week, is due to address the General Assembly a few hours before the Iranian leader speaks.
European diplomats said the three European powers that have been negotiating with Iran — Britain, France and Germany — had adopted a softer tone to be seen to be giving Ahmadinejad a chance and to win over waverers on the IAEA board.
But they said the United States and the EU believed they had the support of at least 20 countries on the 35-member board, which meets beginning on Monday. One option being discussed was to put forward a resolution but hold off a vote for two or three weeks to give Iran a final chance to halt uranium conversion.
Nuclear powers Russia, China, India and Pakistan are all reluctant to back a referral and diplomats say Iran, the world”s second-biggest oil producer, is convinced it has the upper hand and has little to fear from the Security Council.
The council has the power to take action against Iran ranging from a verbal slap on the wrist to a total trade ban.
IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei has urged the Western powers to wait but the diplomats said delay would only embolden Iran to push on toward nuclear fuel enrichment having "got away" with the precursor phase of uranium conversion.
Besides, the diplomatic arithmetic would get tougher when more nonaligned nations join the IAEA board later this month.
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Friday that diplomacy would govern the timing of any push to win a referral.
"I am confident that the world will see to it that Iran goes to the U.N. Security if it does not live up to its agreements. When that referral will happen is a matter of diplomacy," Bush said at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Washington.
Putin, who met Ahmadinejad in New York on Thursday, made clear he saw more room for negotiation, saying diplomacy was "far from being exhausted."