Iranian officials are again warning that referring their nuclear program to the Security Council will trigger the end of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The referral is expected to come at a special IAEA meeting on Thursday, after Russia and China joined Britain, France and the United States in agreeing to send the matter to the Security Council.
Iran is reacting strongly to news that the five permanent members of the Security Council have agreed to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog to send the Iranian case up for debate.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, warned that the referral will end Iran's willingness to talk.
"Any referral of Iran's dossier to the Security Council or reporting Iran's case to the Council would be the end of diplomacy," he said.
Britan, France, the United States, China and Russia on Monday agreed to ask the IAEA board of governors to report the Iranian nuclear program to the Security Council. The IAEA board is meeting on Thursday for a special session.
The five nations also agreed that the Security Council should not actually debate the matter until after it receives an IAEA report in March.
Iranian officials say a law passed late last year would require them to end voluntary cooperation with the IAEA if the program is referred, including inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
In remarks carried on state television, Larijani said Tehran still thinks the two sides can reach a deal through diplomacy.
"I think the Europeans should be more careful of what they do. We asked for negotiations," he said. "We still think that we can reach a good result through negotiations."
Iran took the seals off its nuclear plants earlier this month and resumed nuclear research after a two-year hiatus. European and U.S. officials believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its intentions are peaceful and it only wants to produce nuclear energy.
Some observers were surprised that Russia and China agreed to refer the Iranians to the Security Council. Both countries have strong economic ties with Tehran and favored continued negotiations over the nuclear issue.
Russia has proposed a compromise involving the enrichment of nuclear fuel in Russia for Iran to use.