PRAGUE, 4 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The standoff between Iran and the international community over Iran's nuclear program has gone on for several years now.
Finally, today, it has resulted in a vote by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to vote to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.
Most of the IAEA's 35 board members voted.
"This sends a further strong message to the Islamic Republic of Iran," Britain's ambassador to the IAEA. Peter Jenkins, said. "It's a message of concern at developments in Iran since early January, and of a continuing lack of confidence in Iran's nuclear intentions."
Today's vote puts the standoff over Iran's nuclear program into new, and uncharted, territory.
The West has long feared that Tehran is seeking to build nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear-power program.
Iran says it wants power, not bombs, but concerns over its intentions were heightened after Tehran said in January that it would resume some sensitive nuclear activities.
The IAEA's resolution paves the way for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran.
But it also postpones any UN action by at least a month, as a result of a compromise demanded by Russia and China, who had previously been reluctant to refer Iran to the UN.
Even so, Iran's response was sharp.
It said it would start enriching uranium fuel that can be used in bombs -- and that it would suspend UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Despite the resolution and Iran's response, Western officials say Tehran can still avoid punitive measures from the UN Security Council.
With any action put off until March, they say there is still time for diplomacy.
Britain has urged Iran to take advantage of that breathing space. Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, called on Iran to resume full suspension of enrichment-related activities and to address other
Otherwise, he said, Security Council action is "almost inevitable."
(with agency reports)
On 2 February, the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency began discussing a draft resolution aimed at referring the matter of Iran's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council. The key section of the resolution is Section 1, which states that the Board of Governors:
Underlines that outstanding questions can best be resolved and confidence built in the exclusive peaceful nature of Iran's program by Iran responding positively to the calls for confidence building measures which the Board has made on Iran, and in this context deems it necessary for Iran to:
- reestablish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and processing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the Agency;
- reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water;
- ratify promptly and implement in full Additional Protocol;
- pending ratification, continue to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol with Iran signed on 18 December 2003;
- implement the transparency measures, as requested by the Director General, which extend beyond the former requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations.
THE COMPLETE TEXT: To read the complete text of the resolution, click here.