PRAGUE, 31 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, Gholamreza Aqazadeh, said today that there is no legal justification for sending Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council.
He told Iran's Student News Agency: "considering Iran's cooperation with the [International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] and its transparency, EU countries will face difficulties in sending the Iranian dossier to the Security Council."
Moscow And Beijing Onboard
Aqazadeh's comments follow a consensus reached among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to taking Iran to the Security Council because of Tehran's controversial nuclear activities.
Until now Russia and China, which like the other permanent members have veto power on the Security Council, had resisted any move for a UN referral.
But following last night's talks in London the foreign ministers from Russia, China, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, and the European Union said in a joint statement that they want Iran's case to be taken to the UN Security Council at the IAEA governing board's emergency meeting on 2 February.
The statement, however, adds that the Security Council should wait for a report -- due to be delivered by IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei at a scheduled meeting in March -- before taking any action to reinforce the authority of the IAEA.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior nonproliferation fellow at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, says the set timetable indicates that the agreement was reached through a compromise.
"The U.S. and the Europeans would have wanted to have sent a full report to the UN Security Council right now without any delay in Security Council action. But a one-month delay in the action is a small price to pay for getting solidarity among the five major powers. That's a very important outcome that the five come out of last night's meeting linking arms, speaking in unison, sending a strong signal to Iran."
The five permanent Security Council members and Germany also called on Iran to fully restore the suspension of enrichment- related activity, including research and development activities.
Concerns over Iran's nuclear program reached a high point after Iran broke UN seals at its Natanz facility on 10 January and announced it will resume nuclear-fuel research. The move increased international concern that Iran could use the technology to build nuclear weapons.
But despite the international condemnation, Iran has refused to step down and said that it is exercising "its legitimate right" under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Fitzpatrick says Russia and China have realized that a referral to the UN Security Council is the best way to try to persuade Iran to voluntarily step down.
"They've done this in a two-step process, sending one report to the UN Security Council now but forestalling any Security Council action until March," he said. "This gives Iran some more time to voluntarily change its course of action before the Security Council would require it. There are many further steps in the Security Council where Russia and China can affect the decisions by use of their veto. So this is an important step that gets it to the Security Council but what actions the Security Council would actually take will still involve many more high-level consultations."
Iran has warned against a referral of its nuclear case to the UN Security Council and said that it will not alter its decision. Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said on 29 January that sending of Iran's case to the UN Security Council will end Tehran's cooperation with the IAEA. He said the additional protocol to the NPT, which allows unannounced inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, will be the first "victim" of such a move.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, today reiterated Mottaki's warning about the ending of diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue.
"We still advise [the EU countries] to pursue this issue through constructive and serious negotiations," Larijani said. "The doors for negotiations are still open. We consider a referral to the UN Security Council or a report to the Security Council to be the end of diplomacy and this is not positive."
Dr. Reza Taghizadeh, a professor at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and an expert on Iran, told RFE/RL that despite the threats Iran could, in the long run, back down from its position.
"Iran will -- in the short term -- react negatively to this news and it will make threats of retaliation," he said. "But considering the remaining time -- a month and a half -- if pressure increases on Iran and if Iran loses hope that it will [be able to] get the full support of China, Russia, or even India, then it will gradually see itself forced to do a compromise and it will open the door for it."
Iranian officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the current crisis should be resolved through further negotiations. Larijani stressed today that "the doors for diplomacy are still open" and added that Iran believes "good results" could be achieved through talks.