LONDON,(Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members agreed on Tuesday that the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog should report to the Council this week on what Iran must do to cooperate with the agency.
Iran replied that any such move would kill off diplomatic efforts to end its nuclear standoff with the West, which fears Tehran is trying to build the bomb. Iran denies this.
As the row added to instability in world energy markets, Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri said it would have no bearing on oil exports from the world’s fourth largest producer.
“We have no reason to stop our exports,” he said.
Libyan Energy Minister Fathi Omar Bin Shatwan said earlier that referring Iran’s case to the Council would have a serious effect on oil prices, already just shy of record highs.
Foreign ministers from the five permanent Security Council states — China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain — supported by Germany and the European Union, said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must vote on Thursday to send Iran’s case to the Council.
“(Ministers) agreed that this week’s extraordinary IAEA Board meeting should report to the Security Council its decision on the steps required of Iran,” they said in a joint statement after meeting in London.
Iran can count on support at the IAEA from Venezuela and an abstention from India but observers say Tuesday’s compromise suggestion was likely to get a comfortable majority in any vote.
Iran said diplomatic efforts to resolve its standoff would be over if its case was sent to the Council. It said any such move had no grounds in law and that it would resist demands that it halt sensitive atomic research and development.
“We consider any referral or report of Iran to the Security Council as the end of diplomacy,” state television quoted Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and its chief nuclear negotiator, as saying on Tuesday.
“This statement does not discuss referral but I believe that the Europeans should be more careful,” the semi-official ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying. “We have asked for talks with the Europeans which shows that Iran wants to try all amicable ways to achieve peaceful nuclear technology.”
Also talking to ISNA, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said: “There is no legal basis for referring Iran’s file to the Security Council.”
Iranian officials previously said any move to report its case to the Council would lead it to scale back cooperation with U.N. inspectors and resume uranium enrichment — the most sensitive phase of the atomic fuel cycle.
With Russia and China opposing any escalation of the case, Tuesday’s deal stopped short of recommending a formal referral of Iran to the Council, where it could face economic sanctions.
“A compromise was reached between the participants,” a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
It appeared to have made a concession to Moscow by deferring any Council action until a scheduled IAEA meeting in March.
The statement did not indicate what the U.N. body should do when it actually has the case placed before it.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said an extensive period of “confidence-building” was required from Iran.
Iran says its nuclear programme is only for electricity and that is has a right to nuclear technology. It has alarmed the world by restarting nuclear research previously under IAEA seal.
This month it removed U.N. seals on uranium enrichment equipment, key to making atomic bombs or reactor fuel, and resumed nuclear fuel research.
Earlier on Monday, Iran had put forward ideas on a solution to European officials in Brussels who said the meeting yielded nothing new but that negotiations could be reopened if Tehran complied with IAEA requests.
Iran has threatened to end IAEA snap inspections and had earlier hinted it could cut back crude exports if it were sent to the Council. This has made many countries wary of pursuing sanctions against Tehran.
Germany, France and Britain have been trying for 2-1/2 years to persuade Tehran to give up its uranium enrichment programme.