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Divided Security Council Cautious on Iranian Nuclear Claim


U.N. Security Council members have reacted cautiously to Iran's defiant uranium enrichment claim. VOA's Peter Heinlein at the U.N. reports the Council will wait to hear from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency before deciding on its next steps.

The five veto-wielding permanent Security Council members all individually criticized Iran Wednesday for announcing it has successfully enriched uranium for the first time. Separately, China's U.N. ambassador announced that senior diplomats of all five countries plus Germany would meet in Moscow next Tuesday to discuss the latest developments.

But there is no move to take any Council action until after April 28th, when the International Atomic Energy Agency's next report on Iran is due. All eyes are on I.A.E.A Director Mohamed ElBaradei, who is in Tehran to assess whether the country is complying with the Council's earlier demand that it halt all enrichment work.

In the meantime, ambassadors responded cautiously to questions about the possibility of punitive measures in the future. Russia's U.N. envoy Andrey Denisov suggested that Iran's claim of enrichment should be viewed with skepticism. "There is no reason for punitive measures. There is no obvious evidence of non-compliance with the non-proliferation regime. There are statements which are taken by experts skeptically, and there are some warm-up dances. And that's all," he said,.

Chinese envoy Wang Guangya said Beijing also remains cool to the idea of sanctions. At the same time, he joined the other Council members in criticizing Iran. He called on the Tehran government to be more cooperative with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. "For China, we are concerned about the events and the way things are developing because according to what they announced, certainly I believe it is not in line with what is required of them by the international community, including the IAEA resolution and the Security Council (presidential statement)," he said.

Other ambassadors expressed unanimous support for pursuing the diplomatic track. But British envoy Emyr Jones-Parry warned that if Iran fails to heed the Council's earlier call to halt its nuclear enrichment program, he and others would call for tougher measures. "We'll have to take judgments accordingly. If there's not compliance, it will be our intention to take forward resolutions within the council that will make compulsory what is at the moment an urging by the Council," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier called for "strong steps" to respond to Iran's uranium enrichment claim. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said Tehran's announcement amounts to what he called "expressing disdain for the Security Council".

"The risk that Iran poses by mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle, and especially by uranium enrichment is that the decision whether to accumulate enough highly enriched uranium to construct a nuclear weapon is entirely in their hands, and given their record, given the statements of President Ahmedinejad, that is leaving a potential nuclear weapons capability in the hand of the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, and that is not a happy prospect," he said.

Ambassador Bolton indicated, however, that the United States would wait to hear I.A.E.A. director ElBaradei's verdict before deciding what steps to take next.

ElBaradei arrived in Tehran Wednesday, less than 48 hours after President Ahmedinejad's uranium enrichment declaration. News agencies quoted him as saying he hopes to convince Iranian leaders to suspend its enrichment program until what he called "outstanding issues" are clarified. He said "I would like to see that Iran has come to terms with the request of the international community".

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