IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Europeans to call for meeting on Iran sanctions

France, Britain and Germany are preparing to call an emergency meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s governing board to send Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, diplomats said on Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

France, Britain and Germany are preparing to call an emergency meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s governing board to send Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, diplomats said on Thursday.

The so-called EU3 were consulting with others on the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency board in preparation for calling an early meeting after IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei issues a report on Iran due on Sept. 3, IAEA diplomats said.

At a similar meeting two weeks ago, the board called on Iran to halt sensitive atomic work that it resumed this month in defiance of the West. Iran has said it will not heed that call.

Tehran denies Western charges that its atomic program is a front for covertly developing nuclear weapons.

“The Brits and the Germans are keen on an early board meeting, the French are also not opposed. The Americans also do not oppose it,” said an EU3 diplomat familiar with Iran-EU negotiations.

It was not clear, however, that the Europeans would request the meeting. They would have to overcome opposition from political heavyweights Russia and China and ElBaradei’s report to the board would be key.

Awaiting details of IAEA chief's report
The EU trio could push for an emergency meeting if ElBaradei said Iran had breached a suspension of sensitive nuclear activities that included the resumed work at a uranium conversion plant near the central city of Isfahan.

“First we have to see what is in the report, which will formally say that Iran has violated the suspension, we expect,” the EU3 diplomat said.

EU diplomats have said that if Iran ignored the board’s call for it to resume its suspension, the EU3 would seek to have Iran sent to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions.

Iran agreed to suspend activities that could be used to make weapons for the duration of talks with the EU3. The talks were aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its most sensitive atomic work in exchange for political and economic incentives.

Signaling urgency
The board is due to meet in the week of Sept. 19 but diplomats said the Europeans wanted to call a meeting before then to draw attention to the issue’s importance.

“They seem to think it would signal the priority and the importance they’re attaching to this issue,” a European diplomat said.

Some states, however, were opposed to an early meeting and could block it, diplomats said. These included the Non-Aligned Movement, which holds a third of the seats on the board.

“The Chinese and the Russians are lobbying against it,” the EU3 diplomat said, adding: “The NAM are also opposed.”

The board of governors seeks to reach decisions unanimously and it was unlikely that an emergency session would be called if it did not seem that consensus could be reached, diplomats said.

“It also depends on what the purpose would be. If the purpose (of the meeting) is clearly to send Iran to the Security Council, there will be problems from the NAM,” one added.

U.S. lobbies others
The United States gave presentations to other countries on Wednesday and Thursday to convince them that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, diplomats said.

The presentations, which included satellite pictures of Iranian sites, did not make new revelations about Iran’s nuclear program, said diplomats who attended a presentation. But they said it showed a change in U.S. tactics.

One diplomat said it seemed Washington had become more active in calling for Iran to be referred to the Security Council. In recent months it had toned down its tough rhetoric and simply expressed support for talks between the EU and Iran.

“Clearly they’ve moved onto a new sort of phase. They think the EU-Iran talks are over,” one diplomat said.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Wednesday the EU3 were still keen to talk to Iran despite calling off a meeting scheduled for Aug. 31, adding that the talks were “suspended.”