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West shelves Iran referral

Vienna, Nov. 21 (Reuters): EU powers and Washington will not refer Iran to the UN Security Council this week so that Russia can pursue an initiative to ease a crisis over Tehran’s suspected nuclear arms plans, diplomats said today.

They said a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog this week would shelve a referral resolution in favour of a statement voicing concern about what diplomats said was a document received by Iran containing partial nuclear bomb-making instructions.

“There will be no resolution for sure. The Russians and Chinese oppose this,” said a diplomat from the so-called EU3 ' France, Britain and Germany ' ahead of Thursday’s governing board session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In September, the IAEA board passed a resolution declaring that Iran had violated the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by hiding potentially weapons-related atomic fuel activities from the IAEA for 18 years.

The resolution called for Iran’s breaches to be reported to the Security Council, which has the power to impose economic sanctions, but did not say when the referral should take place.

Tehran denies western allegations that it has a covert atomic weapons programme and insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.

Last week, President George W. Bush said he backed an initiative by Russian President Vladimir Putin to end a months-long impasse in the EU3’s drive to persuade Iran to abandon the most sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. In exchange, Iran would get economic and political benefits.

EU diplomats said this was the main reason for holding off on the Security Council referral ' to give Tehran more time to consider a Russian proposal that would allow Iran to continue nuclear fuel production if it shifted its most critical stage, uranium enrichment, to Russia as part of a joint venture.

Without officially rejecting the Russian idea, Iran has made it clear they must enrich uranium domestically, calling this a sovereign right it would never renounce.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would support a referral of Iran to the Security Council if it saw a real threat that Tehran was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But he said there was no such threat.

“We do not rule out that the Iranian question could be passed on to the UN Security Council, if a real threat of WMD non-proliferation ' especially nuclear weapons ' appears.

“At the moment we do not see such a threat,” he was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.

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