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EU nations move to have Iran reported to U.N. Security Council

WASHINGTON—Concerned that Iran may be secretly developing a nuclear arsenal, European Union nations on Wednesday submitted a draft resolution that calls for the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

The draft resolution underlined fears that a nuclear-armed Iran could up-end the power balance in the world's main oil-producing region, threaten Israel, other nations and U.S. forces in the region, and drive Iran's neighbors to seek their own nuclear arms.

The 35-member board of governors of the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, was expected to adopt the resolution in some form during a two-day emergency meeting beginning Thursday at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Iran warned again on Wednesday that it would take retaliatory steps if reported to the Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions.

The European draft resolution, obtained by Knight Ridder, cited repeated violations by Iran of its obligation as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to disclose all aspects of its nuclear program to IAEA inspectors. The treaty is the cornerstone of the international system designed to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

The resolution noted an "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes," citing a "history of concealment of Iran's nuclear activities, the nature of those activities and other issues arising from the agency's verification of declarations made by Iran since Sept. 1, 2002."

The language was a reference to Iran's admission in 2002 that it had worked secretly for 18 years to develop the infrastructure to enrich uranium. Low-enriched uranium is used for power plants, and highly enriched uranium is used for nuclear weapons.

Iran obtained uranium enrichment technology and know-how from the same Pakistani-led smuggling ring that supplied a nuclear weapons program to Libya. Libya ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Iran insists that its program is strictly for civilian purposes and contends that it has the right to peaceful enrichment of uranium as an NPT signatory.

But Iran's obfuscation and foot-dragging in the three-year IAEA investigation helped convince U.S. and European officials that its civilian program is a cover for a secret military-run nuclear weapons development project.

Britain, France and Germany decided to ask the IAEA board of governors to report Iran to the Security Council after the Islamic republic ended a more than two-year suspension in uranium enrichment work on Jan. 10.

The draft resolution called for Iran to resume the freeze, "consider" halting the construction of a heavy water reactor that could become a source of plutonium for thermonuclear warheads, and ratify an accord—known as the Additional Protocol—giving IAEA inspectors greater access to its nuclear facilities.

It also demanded that IAEA experts be allowed to inspect equipment and interview people involved in nuclear work and be given documents that Iran purchased from the Pakistani-led smuggling ring.

According to an IAEA report on Tuesday, those documents include a 15-page paper that described procedures for fabricating "nuclear weapons components," specifically, enriched uranium hemispheres, the explosive cores of nuclear bombs.

Iranian officials claimed that they had not asked the smuggling ring for the document, according to the report, which said that IAEA officials were allowed to put it under seal, but were not given a copy.

The draft resolution called for IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to send the Security Council all IAEA reports and resolutions regarding Iran, including a September 2005 declaration that Tehran was in violation of its NPT obligations.

He would also send a March 6 update on Iranian cooperation in the IAEA investigation.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, repeated a warning on Wednesday that Iran would halt voluntary compliance with the Additional Protocol, including short-notice inspections of nuclear facilities, if reported to the Security Council.

An Iranian government-run English-language Internet news site quoted Larijani as saying that Iran also would embark on industrial-scale uranium enrichment, a dramatic step up from the research it's undertaking.

Such a move by Iran, the world's fourth largest petroleum supplier, would almost certainly send international oil prices higher.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that President Bush discussed the crisis by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I think both leaders have a shared concern about Iran developing a nuclear weapon under the guise of a civilian program," he told reporters traveling with Bush to Nashville, Tenn.

Russia and China, which had resisted reporting Iran to the Security Council, switched their positions and agreed to do so on Tuesday after talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her British, French and German counterparts in London.

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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