- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

Europe’s three leading powers yesterday demanded that the U.N. Security Council confront Iran over its nuclear programs, saying talks to curb Tehran’s efforts had reached a “dead end.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice immediately endorsed the idea, telling reporters in Washington that Tehran’s decision Tuesday to abandon a moratorium on enriching uranium that could be used for bombs had “shattered the basis for negotiations.”

Meeting in Berlin, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany called for an emergency meeting of the board of the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with an eye toward referring Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.

“The Iranian government now seems intent on turning its back on better relations with the international community,” the three ministers said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the host, said the 21/2-year talks with Iran “have reached a dead end.”

Even Russia, which has opposed the U.S. hard line against Iran’s nuclear programs, said Tehran’s actions this week fed suspicions that the Islamic republic was seeking nuclear weapons.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Moscow radio station that the Iranian move to jump-start its nuclear programs, coupled with harsh anti-Israel rhetoric from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “adds political arguments for those who believe that Iran can only be addressed through the Security Council.”

A senior Bush administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Russia has indicated privately that it will not block a Security Council referral at the IAEA and might even support the move.

U.S. officials hope China will at least abstain on the referral, although getting Beijing’s support for the move could be more difficult.

The U.S., France, Britain, Russia and China are the permanent members of the Security Council and all have a veto.

Iran insists that it has the right under international proliferation accords to develop nuclear power for civilian energy needs. The Bush administration charges that Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons secretly, despite its pledges.

“There is simply no rationale for the Iranian regime to resume uranium enrichment,” Miss Rice told reporters.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns will travel to London Monday to meet with counterparts from Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia to discuss the Iranian crisis, U.S. officials announced. Robert Joseph, the department’s leading nonproliferation official, will meet with IAEA officials in Vienna.

Miss Rice and the EU ministers stopped short of demanding U.N. sanctions against Iran for its nuclear violations. Russia and China have opposed punitive action in the past.

But she said the Ahmadinejad government “has chosen confrontation with the international community over cooperation and negotiation.”

Miss Rice and Mr. Joseph said the United States and its allies prefer a peaceful end to the crisis, despite the breakdown of the EU effort.

“Going to the Security Council is not the end of diplomacy,” Mr. Joseph said. “The key is to put pressure on Iran to reverse course.”

In Tehran, Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on state television that the regime did not fear a referral to the Security Council.

“It is not what we want, but if that’s the case, our officials must plan their policy … to put on a strong show of diplomacy and make our case,” he said.

But U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after a 40-minute telephone conversation with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, said Tehran still wants to pursue the EU talks, at least for now.

Mr. Annan said Mr. Larijani told him that Iran was “interested in serious and constructive negotiations, but within a time frame.”

Asked whether military options were on the table for dealing with Iran, the senior Bush administration official cautioned, “We’re a ways from that.”

Bill Gertz contributed to this article, which was based in part on wire service reports.

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