Nuclear agency to report Iran

22-1 vote sends issue to Security Council

September 25, 2005|By The New York Times

VIENNA, AUSTRIA // Tehran's showdown with the West over its nuclear ambitions entered a new, more volatile phase yesterday, as the International Atomic Energy Agency's board voted to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for violating its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The vote was 22-1, with 12 countries abstaining, including Russia and China. The resolution's approval was widely expected, but only a frenzied round of last-minute diplomacy persuaded Russia and China to abstain rather than vote against the measure.

The vote reflected continuing divisions within the 35-member board. India, which had earlier expressed doubts about the measure, voted in favor; Venezuela cast the sole no vote.

The United States - which backed the resolution drafted by Britain, France, and Germany - expressed satisfaction, saying that it clearly raises doubts about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program.

"We're concerned that Iran's activities pose an increasing threat to international peace and security," said the U.S. ambassador to the agency, Greg Schulte. "Our goal is a peaceful diplomatic settlement that benefits the Iranian people and gives us confidence in the nature of Iran's nuclear program."

Iran swiftly condemned the vote as a politically motivated campaign, orchestrated by the United States and Britain.

"The United States and United Kingdom left no screws unturned to forge consensus here," said Javad Vaeidi, the Iranian delegation's head. "They failed. There is no consensus on the way to go forward."

Vaeidi did not say whether Iran would resume its enrichment of uranium, a threat it had raised to agency board members Friday night. But he said: "For us, good will begets good will, while threat invokes threat."

Russia and China had opposed the resolution on the grounds that it would only worsen the standoff. The two countries, which have permanent seats on the Security Council, have close economic ties to Iran.

The resolution did not specify what action the Security Council should take. Western diplomats said their goal was not to apply sanctions, but to step up the international pressure on Iran to abide by the nonproliferation treaty. Europe's push for a resolution came after its own diplomatic initiative with Tehran collapsed last month, when Iran abandoned an earlier pledge to suspend the conversion and enrichment of uranium.

The vote was the culmination of 2 1/2 years of confrontation between Iran and the atomic energy agency, which began in 2003 after the agency's inspectors uncovered evidence that Iran had concealed efforts to enrich uranium, a crucial building block for nuclear weapons.

While Iran has allowed numerous visits by agency inspectors, it has severely limited access to certain facilities.

Western diplomats tried to play down the 12 abstentions, noting that some nonaligned countries voted in favor of the resolution. "The fact that Peru, Singapore, Ghana, India and Ecuador voted to support this resolution undercuts Iran's argument that this is purely Western political pressure," said a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the delicacy of the situation.

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