Washington, 12 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- In the center of a storm of criticism, Iran seems to be the calm eye.
Despite condemnation from Europe and the United States over its resumption of nuclear research, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said in Tehran that the government is "not worried."
For 2 1/2 years, the EU-3, with U.S. support, have worked to temper Iran's nuclear ambitions through diplomatic persuasion. But on Thursday, the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany said the diplomatic route had reached what they called a "dead end."
In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana to discuss the matter.
After the meeting, Straw accused Tehran of bad faith.
"Iran has decided to turn its back and these negotiations have reached in impasse. In that situation I think we have no alternative but for the decision which we have reached to call for an emergency meeting of the board of governors of the [UN's International] Atomic Energy Agency."
The next step, Straw said, would be to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. Steinmeier agreed, but Solana tried to put the best face on the matter.
"Iran is a great country, it is a country that we respect. We are ready not to deny their right to have a civil program for nuclear projects and we have been always prepared even to help on that line,“ he said. “But what we cannot accept is to have this lack of clarity on the objectives that they have."
U.S.: ‘Not The End Of Diplomacy’
In Washington, Rice called it "extraordinary" that the president of so important a state as Iran would act and speak the way he has. She said the Iranian leader has increased tension "every time he has opened his mouth."
While Rice spoke in support of her European counterparts, she evidently did not share their view that the talks had reached a "dead end."
"This is not an issue of the end of diplomacy," she said. "I have heard some people say that diplomacy has failed. Well, this particular phase with a specific set of negotiations has not succeeded. But we now enter a new phase in diplomacy."
The Iranian nuclear problem reached a climax on 10 January when Iran announced that it was ending its two-year suspension of nuclear research and broke the UN seals at a uranium-enrichment plant. This material can be used both for the peaceful generation of energy or for nuclear weapons.
The European ministers didn't specify what kind of sanctions they might seek from the UN, and France said it's too early even to discuss punishment. For her part, Rice would not say whether the EU-3 and the United States have enough votes in the Security Council to impose any sanctions at all.
Any Security Council resolution can be vetoed by any of its five permanent members. One is Russia, which has long been aligned with Iran on energy and is helping it build a nuclear reactor. But Moscow has expressed displeasure with Iran's decision to resume nuclear research.
Another permanent member is China, which historically has opposed sanctions on any country. China also gets much of its oil from Iran to feed its booming industrial sector.