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US, EU lobby hard to send Iran to UNSC

But, Russia and China fear a tough position against Tehran would instigate Iran to stall negotiations on N-standoff.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 18:21 IST

The United States has said there will be enough votes at the February 2 meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog to bring the nuclear dispute with Iran before the UN Security Council.

The US and European Union are lobbying nations on the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) governing board to refer the issue to the Security Council at the upcoming meeting in Vienna.

"We believe that that's what we're going to see," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday. "And we believe the next stop after Vienna is going to be New York."

McCormack also urged Russia to join the international community in hauling Iran to the Security Council.

"We would certainly encourage them to join what is a growing consensus to send Iran to the Security Council," he said. "But ultimately whether they decide to raise their hand or not is going to be up to them."

Russia and China have balked at taking too tough a position against Tehran over concerns Iran would refuse to rejoin stalled negotiations.

The US and European Union last week announced the move after Iran resumed uranium enrichment research, which could be used to build weapons. The US insists Iran is using an atomic energy programme to develop nuclear arms, a charge Iran strongly denies.

IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei, whose agency has been inspecting Iran's nuclear activities, has not been able to rule out the possibility that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal, but has argued that Iran should be given until March to comply and has expressed doubt about being able to issue a report in time for the February 2 meeting.

McCormack has said the US has urged ElBaradei to address the IAEA board of governors' upcoming meeting.

"It would be appropriate and helpful for the board members to hear from Director General ElBaradei concerning the IAEA's efforts to obtain information from the Iranian government regarding the unanswered questions that Iran has left on the table," he said.

A US State Department official on Friday said that the US and its European partners must maintain a common position on the dispute.

"The civilised world and trans-Atlantic world needs to speak with a single voice," said Daniel Fried, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

The United States has not said whether it will immediately seek UN sanctions if the Security Council takes up the issue, but reports have said Washington and the EU will initially push for ways to pressure Iran and hold off on sanctions.

US officials have also been cautious to say that the intention is not to isolate or punish the Iranian people, blaming instead the Tehran government for the growing isolation.

Other forms of sanctions could include targeting government leaders or businesses closely tied to the government, or going after bank accounts held overseas.

Earlier this month, Washington enacted sanctions against two Iranian firms believed to be playing a role in the country's nuclear programme - Novin Energy Company and Mesbah Energy Company.

The two firms are controlled by the Iranian government's nuclear agency, called the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI).

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 15:26 IST