Shortly after Iran’s president said his country “won’t give a damn” about any U.N. sanctions, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that Iran had enriched uranium and was in defiance of the U.N. Security Council.
In response, Western nations promised Friday to introduce a new Security Council resolution next week.
President Bush said “the world is united and concerned” about what he called Iran’s “desire to have not only a nuclear weapon but the capacity to make a nuclear weapon or the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon.”
The finding that Iran was not in compliance, which was expected, was contained in a report drawn up by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
The eight-page report said that, after more than three years of an IAEA investigation, “the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern.”
“Any progress in that regard requires full transparency and active cooperation by Iran,” it added.
The report said Iran’s claim to have enriched small amounts to a level of 3.6 percent — fuel-grade uranium as opposed to weapons-grade enriched to levels above 90 percent — appeared to be true, according to initial IAEA analysis of samples it took.
In one of the few new developments in the IAEA’s investigation, the report concluded that Iran used undeclared plutonium in conducting small-scale separation experiments.
“The agency cannot exclude the possibility ... that the plutonium analyzed by the agency was derived from source(s) other than declared by Iran,” the report said. Plutonium separation is one of the suspect “dual use” activities that could be used for a weapons program.
Defiance in Iran
Council members said they would act urgently after the latest report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, even as Iran remains defiant.
“We are concerned about the continued work that Iran is doing to acquire nuclear weapons capability,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said. “We do think there’s a sense of urgency here, and we hope that we can get council action just as soon as possible.”
Britain, France and Germany, which had led efforts for those earlier demands, will introduce a new resolution next week with the intention of discussing it Wednesday, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said.
The United States, France and Britain say that if Tehran does not meet the deadline, they will make the enrichment demand and other conditions compulsory and they want punitive measures to stay on the table.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said no Security Council resolution could make Iran give up its nuclear program.
“The Iranian nation won’t give a damn about such useless resolutions,” Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Khorramdareh in northwestern Iran.
“Today, they want to force us to give up our way through threats and sanctions but those who resort to language of coercion should know that nuclear energy is a national demand and by the grace of God, today Iran is a nuclear country,” state-run television quoted him as saying.
China, which wields a veto in the council, said it would oppose tough action in the powerful U.N. body.
“All we want is to work for a diplomatic solution because this region is already complicated, there are a lot of problems in the region, and we should not do anything that would cause the situation (to be) more complicated,” China’s Ambassador Wang Guangya said. Russia also was likely to resist.
U.S.: ‘Diplomatic actions just beginning’
Bush said he was not discouraged by Iran’s vow to continue despite global pressure, and while he has refused to rule out the possibility of military action against Iran, he emphasized the pursuit of diplomatic efforts.
“I think the diplomatic options are just beginning,” he said in Washington.
John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday that “the United States is ready to take action in the Security Council to move to a resolution.”
“I think, if anything, the IAEA report shows that Iran has accelerated its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons although, of course, the report doesn’t make any conclusions in that regard,” Bolton said.
Bolton said the resolution should be under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter “making mandatory for Iran the existing requirements of the IAEA resolutions, and particularly the resolution the board passed in February.” Chapter 7 resolutions can be enforced by sanctions, or militarily.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier won broad support from NATO allies for a tough diplomatic line on Iran if Tehran fails to comply.
However, NATO foreign ministers meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, did not offer any specific threat of sanctions against Iran, in part to avoid a rift with Russia and China.
“On Iran, there was unanimity,” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters. “Although the clear message to the Iranian authorities is one of firmness, we have to continue with the diplomatic path.”
Rice said it was time for the Security Council to act if the world body wished to remain credible.
“The Security Council is the primary and most important institution for the maintenance of peace and stability and security and it cannot have its word and its will simply ignored by a member state,” Rice said.
No word after meeting
On Thursday, Iran’s deputy nuclear chief, Mohammad Saeedi, met with Olli Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s deputy director general in charge of Iran’s nuclear file, handing over material on Tehran’s nuclear program in a bid to stave off sanctions.
Diplomats, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss confidential details of the IAEA’s Iran probe, said they had no details of what Saeedi had brought to the table.
Still, they characterized the meeting between Saeedi and Heinonen as unlikely to blunt the report’s main finding: that Tehran has ignored council requests to suspend uranium enrichment.
Bolton already has said he plans to introduce a resolution requiring Tehran to comply with the council’s demand to stop its enrichment program. The resolution would not call for sanctions now, but it would be introduced under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for sanctions and is militarily enforceable.
Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Javad Zarif, said Tehran will refuse to comply with such a resolution because its activities are legal and peaceful. Enrichment can be used to generate fuel or make the fissile core of nuclear weapons.
“If the Security Council decides to take decisions that are not within its competence, then Iran does not feel obliged to obey,” he said Thursday in New York.
He also said Tehran was prepared to return to discussions of the offer it made in negotiations with the Europeans last year if the international community agrees to “stop this nonsense, pressure tactic.”
Moscow idea 'still alive'
A Russian proposal to move Tehran’s uranium enrichment to Russian territory “is still alive,” he said, “and Iran is prepared to consider any proposal that will guarantee Iran’s rights.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, insisted the U.N. nuclear watchdog should continue to play a central role in the dispute. “It mustn’t shrug this role from its shoulders and pass it on to the U.N. Security Council,” Putin said.
But a top French diplomat laid out a starkly contrasting position reflecting U.S. and British views: The Security Council should not only have primacy in dealing with Iran but also should start considering how to increase the pressure. But, the diplomat said, a U.N. resolution would not automatically mean resorting to military action.
The Security Council adopted a statement a month ago giving Iran until Friday to suspend all activities linked to enrichment because it can be used to make the highly enriched uranium used in the core of nuclear warheads.