EU: Iranian Obstinacy May Bring UN Referral

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VIENNA - Iran faced a deadline yesterday to freeze work that could enable it to make an atomic weapon. European Union representatives warned Tehran had just weeks before a likely referral to the UN Security Council.

The probability of Security Council action grew after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report revealed Friday that Tehran had pumped out about seven tons of the gas it needs for uranium enrichment since restarting the conversion process last month.

Key European nations had awaited the report's results, setting yesterday as an informal deadline for Tehran to reimpose its freeze or face a potential referral to the Council.

Diplomats from EU countries accredited to the IAEA said talks with other members of the 35-nation IAEA board of governors geared at finding consensus on referral would begin tomorrow in Vienna.

They said that as a Sept. 19 board meeting grows closer, ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and EU counterparts from France, Germany and Britain would likely get involved in drafting the language of a resolution demanding that the Security Council deal with Iran's refusal to stop uranium conversion, a precursor to uranium enrichment.

A senior U.S. diplomat said Iran's choices were narrowing. "Unless Iran stops its conversion, cooperates fully with the IAEA and returns to the (EU) negotiating table, the board should report this matter to the UN Security Council," he said.

A Vienna-based European diplomat said the European Union felt betrayed by Iran's move.

The diplomats said Tehran could still avoid referral by reimposing a freeze on such activities before the start of the board meeting.

That appeared unlikely, however.

Iranian state television on Friday cited Ali Larijani, Iran's point-man on nuclear issues, as saying his country would "confine its cooperation with the IAEA (only according) to IAEA regulations and to defined international agreements."

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