| Merkel: Warning A member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran at a protest in Munich. (AFP)
Tehran/Vienna, Feb. 4 (Reuters): The UN nuclear watchdog voted today to report Iran to the Security Council over fears it seeks atomic bombs and a defiant Tehran said it would curb UN inspections right away and pursue full-scale uranium enrichment.
In a 27-3 vote, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board opted to notify the Security Council on Iran but no council action, including sanctions, would be considered before a conclusive IAEA investigative report due next month.
In response to the vote, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued an order to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation to restart full-scale uranium enrichment, the conservative Mehr news agency said. However, a spokesman for the presidential palace said Ahmadinejad “had not taken any fresh measures today”.
Iranian lawmakers in November passed a bill forcing the government to restart full-scale uranium enrichment and to end snap UN inspections of atomic facilities if its case were sent to the world body.
Iran could face political or economic sanctions at the Security Council but council sources say a swift decision is unlikely because of diplomatic rifts on Iran’s case.
The Islamic republic says its nuclear programme is designed solely to generate electricity for its economy, not bombs, and claims a sovereign right to make uranium fuel on its own soil.
But 18 years of hiding its nuclear work from the IAEA, frequent evasions of IAEA probes since and a move last month to resume suspended nuclear fuel research and small-scale enrichment paved the way to today’s decision.
To head off Security Council action, Iran must halt fuel enrichment “for which it today has no civil requirement”, preserve spot IAEA checks and give IAEA sleuths full access to nuclear officials, equipment and related military sites, said Gregory Schulte, US ambassador to the agency.
A rare consensus between the western permanent powers on the Security Council ' Britain, France and the US ' and Russia and China over Iran reached last month made the vote possible. Moscow and Beijing previously blocked IAEA action.
Iran’s IAEA envoy called the move a “hasty and immature decision”.
Iranian officials said the vote also could destroy any basis for talks on Russia’s proposal to defuse Iran’s standoff with the West by taking in Iranian uranium for enrichment, in theory preventing diversions to bomb-making.
“In this context, we think we have to see how we can consider the Russian proposal. Now it’s not clear for us,” said Iranian deputy nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi, who yesterday had said engaging the Security Council would “kill” the talks.
Asked whether talks on the proposal were now off, Russian ambassador to the IAEA Grigory Berdennikov said: “I never heard any information to the contrary”
Western leaders rejected the Iranian threats as “blackmail”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel likened Iran’s nuclear programme to the threat posed by the Nazis in the early 1930s, saying the world must act to stop Tehran making an atomic bomb.
“We want, we must prevent Iran from developing its nuclear programme,” Merkel said in Munich conference.
“The Iranian regime is today the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the conference.“The world does not want, and must work together to prevent, a nuclear Iran,” he said.