Iran Faces Tough Measures by UN

VIENNA -- Iran's refusal to fully give up uranium enrichment -- and banish suspicions it is interested in nuclear arms -- set the stage for a confrontation at a key UN atomic watchdog agency meeting Monday, with the United States lobbying its allies to have Tehran hauled before the Security Council.

Russia said it was opposed to such a move, at least for now.

"We think it is premature for the UN Security Council to discuss this issue," Yury Fedotov, a deputy Russian foreign minister, told Interfax in Moscow.

Tehran appeared ready to compromise as the meeting opened. Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief delegate at the Vienna meeting, said that "at the moment" a partial freeze on assembling and making parts for centrifuges -- a key part of the enrichment process -- was in effect.

A senior diplomat familiar with the International Atomic Energy Agency said the agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, was checking on the claim that Iran had reinstated such a partial freeze. IAEA officials declined comment.

The IAEA board of governors meeting also heard brief comments on South Korea's clandestine uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction experiments from agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei. The issue of Iran was not expected to be discussed before Tuesday at the earliest.

ElBaradei said South Korea's failure to report its experiments as required by agreements it had with the IAEA were a "matter of serious concern." He said he would have a fuller report on Seoul's clandestine nuclear activities by the next board meeting in November.

Repeating his government's stance, South Korean delegate Cho Chang-Bom told reporters the experiments involved only minute quantities of enriched uranium and plutonium and were performed by a small group of renegade scientists "without the knowledge and authorization of the government." He said that -- with the revelations now public -- South Korea harbored no more nuclear secrets

Washington appeared to soften its rhetoric on Iran before the opening session in apparent recognition that it might not get its way immediately. But its case was bolstered over the longer term after key European allies agreed to set a November deadline for Iran to meet demands meant to banish concerns over its possible pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In a confidential draft resolution prepared by France, Germany and Britain, the three European powers warned of possible "further steps" by November, the next time the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency convenes a meeting of its board of governors.

Diplomats defined that phrase as shorthand for referral of Iran's case to the UN Security Council if Tehran hinders the IAEA's nuclear investigation, or refuses to suspend uranium enrichment -- which can be used to generate power or make nuclear weapons.