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 Post subject: Agency prepares for vote on Iran
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 3:17 am 

Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:13 pm
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Location: South Australia
Agency prepares for vote on Iran

February 04, 2006
VIENNA: Following years of fraught diplomacy, the international community was due to take a decisive step overnight against Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Most member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency, meeting in Vienna, are expected to vote to report Tehran to the UN Security Council.

Even Iran's ally, Russia, has reportedly decided to support sending Iran to the council, on condition the threat of sanctions is withheld for at least another month. Iran threatened yesterday that it would move ahead on industrial-level uranium enrichment if it was referred.

Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani made the retaliation threat in a letter to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

Mr Larijani said the IAEA's monitoring of the Iranian nuclear program "would extensively be limited and all the peaceful nuclear activities being under voluntary suspension would be resumed without any restriction".

Iran's hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has previously warned that a referral would invite such retaliation.

The US and EU say despite their backing for Iran's referral to the council, a diplomatic solution is still possible.

Under such an agreement, Iran would build a legitimate civilian nuclear program without joining the exclusive club of nuclear-armed states.

But privately, experts predict a far darker scenario. They believe that within five years, Iran will succeed in building an atomic bomb or be prevented from doing so by a US military attack that could trigger a broader Middle East conflict.

For the next month, the world's top diplomats will try to talk Iran down from its position and accept a compromise, involving uranium enrichment work being conducted for Iran on Russian soil.

But if no deal is reached, the matter will be taken before the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions and, in extreme cases, authorise the use of force.

No one is yet pressing for sanctions - apart from the US, which already has a trade embargo against Iran dating back a quarter of a century - but Tehran's defiant rhetoric and provocative actions could make the issue unavoidable.

As with the debate over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the Security Council's five permanent members are split.

The US, Britain and France may consider sanctions aimed at Iran's nuclear industry, its military and political leadership. But Russia and China are hesitant.

Russia has billions of dollars' worth of contracts with Iran, while China receives about 15per cent of its oil from the Islamic republic.

If sanctions were imposed, Iran could use its navy batteries to attack oil shipments from the Persian Gulf passing through the Straits of Hormuz.

It could also provoke attacks against Western targets using its regional proxies by mobilising Hezbollah in Lebanon; Hamas in Palestine/Israel; the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, and smaller groups in Afghanistan. Western analysts believe that during this war of attrition, Iran would attempt to accelerate its nuclear program.

The Times, AFP

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