VIENNA, (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday it would host a meeting of world powers on September 21 to discuss broadening U.N. sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend nuclear activity.
The meeting of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany is expected “to be centred largely on a discussion of what sanctions will be included” in a new U.N. Council resolution, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
The announcement in Washington came during a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, where western countries questioned a deal between Tehran and the IAEA, meant to bring transparency to Iran’s nuclear programme.
The Aug. 21 deal commits Iran to answer five-year-old IAEA questions about its nuclear programme over a timeline of a few months, while effectively allowing Tehran to continue to enrich uranium — a process that can be used to produce nuclear bombs.
Iran says it is entitled to run a nuclear programme it bills as designed solely to generate electricity. Chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, speaking in Tehran, reiterated on Wednesday that Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment.
Washington fears the Iran-IAEA deal might derail its attempt to sharpen so-far mild United Nations sanctions imposed over Iran’s refusal to shelve uranium enrichment.
During the meeting of IAEA governors in Vienna, the United States appealed for support from the 35-nation body for fresh sanctions on Iran. “This means that the U.N. Security Council needs the active support of the IAEA board of governors for … a new sanctions resolution due to Iran’s failure to suspend enrichment,” U.S. Ambassador Gregory Schulte said. However, board members are so far divided on how best to approach Iran, with developing nations objecting to what they see as U.S. political interference in the workings of the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
Iran’s chief delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh repeated a warning by Non-Aligned Movement nations that any “interference” could wreck the transparency pact. “Interference in the agency’s technical … management or engagement of other politically and security-oriented organs shall impede seriously the new constructive process and might even destroy the trend,” he told the U.N. watchdog’s governors. “Let the IAEA do its job,” Soltanieh told reporters.
The 27-nation European Union said on Tuesday that it “took note” of the IAEA plan, but failed to endorse it. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei appealed on Wednesday for support for the transparency pact, saying that Iran would still be forced eventually to shelve uranium enrichment even after resolving outstanding questions. “This issue is very complex and linked to security in the Middle East region which is more than messy right now … I call on (all) to try to help us find a credible…, peaceful solution through verification. I don’t think we can afford to fail.”
Western leaders believe the plan buys time for Iran to achieve “industrial” enrichment capacity without facing biting economic penalties, which Russia and China are blocking as long as the cooperation pact moves forward.