Iranian workers at Isfahan plant (file photo)
Prague, 11 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is continuing an emergency meeting today to discuss Iran's resumption of work at a uranium-conversion facility near the city of Isfahan. Diplomats on the IAEA's board of governors are discussing a resolution sponsored by the European Union that urges Iran to suspend uranium-conversion activities at the facility, but which does not mention a referral to the UN Security Council.
A draft of the resolution seen by international news agencies expresses "serious concern" about Iran's resumption of uranium conversion and calls on Tehran to resume the full suspension of all nuclear-fuel-related activities.
The draft also requests the director-general of the IAEA, Muhammad el-Baradei, to provide a comprehensive report on the implementation of Iran's nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement -- and the resolution itself -- by 3 September.
It does not call for Iran’s nuclear case to be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, however.
The draft resolution was submitted to the IAEA board of governors by the European Union trio of France, Great Britain, and Germany shortly after Iran broke the seals on equipment at the Isfahan conversion facility and resumed operations there.
The move was criticized by the United States, which said it will only lead to the further isolation of Iran. "We've seen a continued series of provocative actions [by Iran] -- refusing the European proposal, rejecting the European proposal, starting uranium-conversion activity, breaking the seals," Deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters in Washington last night. "And this sends a pretty clear message to the international community, that has been received, that Iran is moving away from cooperation and is moving away from working with international institutions. And I think that that's a message that's being heard loud and clear by the members of the [IAEA] board [of governors]."
The United States and the EU say the resumption of uranium conversion by Iran is a breach of a November 2004 agreement. Under that agreement, Tehran committed itself to suspending all uranium enrichment activities for the duration of negotiations with the EU trio.
But Iranian officials say they have run out of patience and that processing and enriching uranium for civilian purposes is Tehran’s right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Despite the hardening of Tehran’s nuclear stance, Iranian officials say they are still willing to continue negotiations. The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said yesterday that EU countries should respect Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology while also returning to the negotiation table.
"Iran's policy is to continue negotiations, whether with Europeans, the [International Atomic Energy] Agency, or with other countries. The Europeans have rejected many of Iran's proposals before, and now Iran has rejected one of theirs, so nothing important has happened," Aghazadeh said.
Speaking late yesterday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the continuation of talks is the best way to break the current impasse. "I have indications from both sides that they are prepared to continue the search for a solution," he said.
Annan said he has asked Iran’s new president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, to show restraint and continue talks with the EU trio. Ahmadinejad has said he will put forward new ideas for resolving the crisis after the formation of his cabinet in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Sirus Nasseri, told the BBC yesterday that it would be a "grave miscalculation" to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. He said such a move would be a step toward "the path of confrontation."
China -- a country with veto power on the Security Council -- also said yesterday that it would not be helpful to refer Iran to the UN.
(compiled from agency reports)