First Published: 2007-03-07

Iran warns of 'serious response' to sanctions

UN atomic agency to finalise Iran aid cuts for failing to suspend strategic nuclear fuel work.


Middle East Online

Larijani: Issuing a resolution will affect many things

TEHRAN - World powers will receive a "serious response" from Iran if they adopt a new UN resolution imposing more sanctions over its atomic drive, top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned Wednesday.

"If they go ahead in an extreme manner and issue a resolution, they will receive a serious answer and the conditions will change," Larijani was quoted as saying by the state-run INRA agency.

"Issuing a resolution will affect many things," he said, without elaborating.

Ambassadors from the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany are mulling new sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment operations, which they fear could be diverted to make a nuclear weapon.

"In reality, there are two paths in front of us and them. One path is that we should follow this matter through realistic and not artificial negotiations. We prefer this first path," said Larijani.

The Security Council already agreed a sanctions resolution in December that targeted Iran's nuclear programme and ballistics industry. The new proposed resolution would also include new financial and trade restrictions.

The UN atomic agency was expected Wednesday to ratify drastic cuts in technical aid to Iran to punish its failure to suspend strategic nuclear fuel work.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will however reaffirm at a meeting that it hopes a negotiated settlement to the Iran nuclear crisis can be reached.

Key statements of positions from Western and developing countries on the crisis as well as on an upcoming trip by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to North Korea were to be made at the Vienna meeting.

A draft of a European Union statement said that the EU "reaffirms its continuous support for efforts to find a negotiated long-term solution to the Iranian nuclear issue."

The EU said "a comprehensive offer is still on the table and the door remains open," referring to a deal of trade, security and technology benefits for Iran if it guarantees it will not seek nuclear weapons.

But the EU said it "deplores that Iran has not complied with the terms of UNSC (UN Security Council) resolution 1737," passed on December 23, which called on Iran to halt uranium enrichment work and to stop building a reactor that could produce plutonium.

While the United States says Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, Iran says it only wants nuclear power to generate electricity.

On Monday, ElBaradei told the opening session of the IAEA's governing board meeting that the agency was still unable to verify that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons.

ElBaradei said it was "long overdue" for Iran to "answer all the agency's questions and concerns about its past nuclear activities in an open and transparent manner."

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors is Wednesday to discuss a report from ElBaradei documenting Iran's failure to heed the Security Council call to suspend uranium enrichment and cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors, diplomats said.

The board is also expected to approve a nearly 50 percent cut in technical aid to Iran as part of Security Council sanctions, an IAEA spokesman said, adding that this issue might run over until Thursday.

Developing nations will sign on to this but will issue a statement stressing their right to IAEA aid for peaceful nuclear programmes, a diplomat from a non-aligned country said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tuesday that Iran is prepared to hold negotiations as long as Washington set no preconditions.

But US officials insist that Iran halt nuclear fuel work before talks can start.

Major powers mulling new sanctions on Iran are unlikely to agree on a Security Council draft resolution in New York this week, diplomats said late Tuesday.

Iran's ambassador in Vienna, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, restated his country's insistence that it is open to talks on settling "outstanding issues with the IAEA" but only if the Security Council does not meddle in Iran's nuclear affairs.

Meanwhile, the IAEA on Tuesday circulated a letter Oman had sent last month to ElBaradei on behalf of the Arab League expressing "deep concern and great disquiet" over Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's comments in December that seemed to confirm that Israel has the bomb.

Israel is believed to have some 200 atom bombs but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying this.

Oman's letter said "Arab States consider Israel's possession of military nuclear capabilities to be a clear violation of the will of the international community."

Israel is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and so is not subject to IAEA safeguard inspections.

Iran is a signatory, and Arab states complain that it is unfair to scrutinize Iran when Israel is not under IAEA monitoring for nuclear weapons.


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