Powers Meet in London on Iran

Activities Resume at Iran Nuclear Plant - Natanz

Activities Resume at Iran Nuclear Plant – Natanz

Wed. 25 Jan 2006
New York Times


VIENNA, Jan. 24 – The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet in London on Monday in an effort to resolve their differences on how best to punish Iran for its nuclear activities, three diplomats said Tuesday.

The United States and the Europeans say they believe that the United Nations Security Council must begin to pass judgment now on Iran for its nuclear behavior. The meeting was prompted by Iran’s decision earlier this month to reopen its uranium enrichment plant despite a voluntary agreement freezing such activity, although the behavior being criticized also includes violations of Iran’s treaty obligations over the years.

But Russia and China are resisting entreaties to move immediately, arguing that Iran should be pressed to close the plant but should be given more time to comply with the demands being made before the Security Council acts.
The meeting in London will give the five permanent members of the Security Council, as well as Germany, a last opportunity to forge a common position before a crucial meeting in Vienna on Feb. 2 of the 35country board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity under customary diplomatic rules.

At a minimum, the ministers could be expected to issue a statement of concern calling on Iran to immediately close down its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, which Iran says it wants to operate for research purposes.

The site is still under strict monitoring by the atomic energy agency, based in Vienna. While Iran has begun to move equipment around and clear the site, international inspectors have seen no evidence that it has begun to operate any of the machinery there, diplomats said.

The United States and the Europeans are still hoping that the agency’s board will vote at its meeting next week to refer the situation to the Security Council.

The Iran dispute has set in motion intense global diplomatic efforts by the Americans and Europeans as well as the Iranians, who have threatened to put into effect a law of theirs that would require them to move ahead with a full-scale uranium enrichment program and limit cooperation with the international atomic agency if the Iran dossier went before the Security Council.

Enriched uranium can be used for peaceful energy purposes or for making atomic bombs, and the process of enrichment for peaceful purposes is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In Moscow on Tuesday, Ali Larijani, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, met with Russian officials to discuss their proposal to enrich Iran’s uranium on Russian soil under Russian supervision.

After the talks, the office of Igor S. Ivanov, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, issued a statement saying only that "both sides expressed their desire to solve the issue in a diplomatic way within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

In Nicosia, Cyprus, on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain urged Iran to "look much more seriously" at the Russian proposal, The Associated Press reported. When the Russians made their proposal late last year, Iran at first denied that the proposal existed, then rejected it, and now says it is under consideration.

In another diplomatic development, officials from the atomic agency flew on Tuesday to Tehran, where they will give Iran a last chance to cooperate fully with the agency’s demands concerning Iran’s past nuclear activities, agency officials said.

Olli Heinonen, the deputy director general for safeguards, and a team of inspectors will press longstanding demands, including access to a former military site in Tehran, information about Iran’s dealings with an international nuclear black market that supplied it with atomic technology, and information about possible work related to nuclear weapons.