Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Debate: More Anti-Iran Measures?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Debate: More Anti-Iran Measures?

Article excerpt

The stage was set for the next round in the global confrontation with Iran when the UN's nuclear-energy agency found in a report issued Thursday that Tehran has been partially cooperative, but has still not answered crucial questions about its nuclear program.

The glass-half-full conclusion was in a report by Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for the agency's Board of Governors. It's likely to confound an international community that is united on stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon but is divided over what steps to take.

That lack of a single vision - which some experts believe Tehran has been clever enough to orchestrate by being just cooperative enough - could stall a third set of international sanctions on Tehran, which Washington was hoping to see passed before the end of the year.

The IAEA report says Tehran has become more transparent about its nuclear program, but it also confirms a continuing expansion of a uranium-enrichment program.

"You still might be able to get a third watered-down resolution, but it's hard to see the [United Nations] Security Council moving forward on really tough sanctions," says Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

But already this week, brewing divisions in the international community were apparent as two veto-wielding members of the Security Council offered diverging scenarios for dealing with Tehran.

China said Thursday that it supports Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear-energy program and that it prefers to see Iran answer questions about its nuclear ambitions through negotiations with the IAEA. That statement followed the visit earlier this week to Tehran by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. During his visit, Mr. Yang called for stronger economic ties between the two countries - something sure to irritate Washington, which has been trying to persuade other countries to curtail ties to Tehran as a way to pressure it not to pursue nuclear weapons.

Also this week, however, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sounded a much tougher note, calling on the international community to cease all investment in Iran's oil and gas industry if the nation does not prove its claim that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

Mr. Brown said Britain's course of action would be determined by the results of two reports: Mr. ElBaradei's and another by the European Union's foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, expected later this month.

With divisions in the Security Council apparently reemerging, one possible outcome experts foresee is a shift in how Western countries pressure Iran - away from Security Council measures and toward separate sanctions by the economies most involved in Iran. But even that approach raises question marks, since it is not clear how fully on board Germany is. …

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