U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday she is certain the issue of Iran's nuclear program will be referred to the U.N. Security Council. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has begun a critical meeting on Iran's nuclear program in Vienna.
The 35-nation IAEA governing board opened its meeting on the Iranian nuclear program Monday amid reports that key members including Russia and China are resisting European efforts for an early referral of the issue to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
However, both Secretary of State Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who are discussing Iran with their counterparts on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session, insist there is an international consensus for referral, driven in part by the Iranian President's hardline speech on the nuclear issue Saturday.
In that address, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran's nuclear activities are entirely peaceful, but that it has an inalienable right to possess a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Those trying to prevent that, he said, are practicing what he termed nuclear apartheid.
In a talk with reporters, Secretary Rice said there was broad disappointment with the Iranian statement and that Tehran owes the international community answers about why it concealed nuclear activities over the past 15 years and walked out of talks on the issue last month with Britain, France and Germany.
Though she said the timing may not be clear, Ms. Rice expressed certainty that Iran will be referred to the Security Council.
"Now, the timing of any such referral of course, is a matter for diplomacy and we will look to talk to people about that," she said. "But I don't think there is any disagreement, and in fact I've met with all my counterparts who are engaged in this. I don't think there is any disagreement that there are serious concerns about the Iranian nuclear activities, that those concerns have got to be answered, that Iran must be prevented from gaining the technology and the technological know-how that would potentially lead to a nuclear weapon in a very volatile region."
European Union diplomats are circulating a draft resolution at the IAEA meeting urging a Security Council referral because of Iranian breaches of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
News reports say if European envoys cannot line up a consensus for the resolution, the IAEA's traditional way of doing business, they may seek a majority vote on the measure despite concerns it would be divisive.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is reported to have asked European Union foreign ministers at the United Nations Monday to delay a referral move in the interest of international unity.
But British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a key participant in European nuclear contacts with Iran, said that reports of divisions and splits not-withstanding, Russia and the EU have the same basic view about Iran.
"The Russian Federation have the same aim as the rest of the international community," said Mr. Straw. "Foreign Minister Lavrov is on record as saying that the Russian Federation does not wish the government of Iran to develop or acquire a nuclear weapons capability. That is the same approach as we have. What we're now working out is the appropriate tactics to achieve that."
Mr. Straw said Iran insists on nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities for which there are no plausible applications in a civilian power program. The United States has long maintained that Iran is conducting nuclear weapons work under cover of its nominally peaceful program.