HomeIran News NowIran Nuclear NewsFrance threatens Iran with U.N. referral

France threatens Iran with U.N. referral

French Prime Minister, Dominique de VillepinReuters, UNITED NATIONS, September 14 – France threatened Iran with referral to the United Nations over its nuclear activities on Wednesday despite the misgivings of the IAEA, the U.N.’s atomic watchdog agency.

In remarks to the U.N. Security Council, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin stressed the need for a "determined response" against weapons proliferation.

"In the nuclear sphere, we have put our trust in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," where there are rights to uphold and duties to enforce, he said.

"If a state fails in its obligations under the (Nuclear) Non-proliferation Treaty, it is legitimate, once dialogue has been exhausted, to refer it to the Security Council."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due to address the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday and again on Saturday.

At some point, he is expected to outline a new plan aimed at reviving suspended EU talks and fending off a referral.

The IAEA fears that referring Iran to the Security Council now for possible sanctions over fears that Tehran wants to build nuclear arms would split its members, diplomats said.

They said the watchdog would rather set a new deadline for Iran to halt sensitive work when the 35-nation IAEA governing board meets from Monday to decide.

"Everything points in the direction of a need for more time. So it would be in everybody’s favor to give it some three or four weeks," a senior diplomat close to the Vienna-based IAEA told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The European Union’s three biggest powers — France, Britain and Germany — joined forces with Washington to back a Council referral after Tehran resumed sensitive nuclear activities at its Isfahan uranium processing plant last month.

Work had been suspended under a November deal with the EU.

The EU trio says it will not seek immediate sanctions and only gradually increase pressure on Iran, and EU diplomats said Wednesday nothing would be gained by delaying referral.

Britain’s Foreign Office said this was an issue for the IAEA board, not IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, to decide.

IRAN SAYS IT WON’T SUSPEND AGAIN

Tehran denies wanting atom bombs and says the West would abridge Iran’s right to a full nuclear energy program. To undercut that argument, President George W. Bush on Tuesday publicly endorsed Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear power.

Other diplomats said ElBaradei suggested to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the IAEA’s governing board could instead set a deadline for Iran to resume a suspension of sensitive atomic activities and help the U.N. resolve outstanding questions about Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran has told the IAEA, however, that it will continue to cooperate with it, but only if it can exercise a right to enrich uranium, according to a statement obtained by Reuters. The statement was circulated to IAEA members this week.

"There is no reason for Iran to sustain its … voluntary suspension of uranium conversion and enrichment," it said.

DELAY SEEN UNDERMINING IAEA’S CREDIBILITY

ElBaradei’s former deputy and chief IAEA inspector, Pierre Goldschmidt, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that the IAEA board should not hesitate to report Iran for hiding its uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades.

"A failure by the board to make such a report would considerably weaken the agency and the global non-proliferation regime. It would reveal that the world is unwilling to hold rule-breakers to account, inviting proliferation by other countries," wrote Goldschmidt, who retired this summer.

EU diplomats said Ahmadinejad wanted to expand the EU-Iran talks to include countries like Russia, China, India or South Africa, which oppose U.N. referral and believe Iran should be allowed a full nuclear program.

The EU has ruled out new talks unless Iran re-freezes work at Isfahan, which EU diplomats said was unlikely.