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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, China Support Sending Iran to UN

APU.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaking as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listen during a news conference in London late Monday night.
LONDON -- The world's top five powers agreed early Tuesday in London to move to report Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.

Iran reacted angrily to the new pressure and said even reporting its case to the council would kill off diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute over the program, which Tehran says is purely peaceful, not military as the West suspects.

Russia and China joined with Britain, France and the United States, plus Germany and the European Union to agree that the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting, the UN's nuclear watchdog, should report to the council this week on what Iran must do to cooperate with the agency. Russia and China had been reluctant to escalate the case, and the deal from London talks stopped short of recommending a formal referral of Iran to the council, where it could have then faced economic sanctions.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian and Chinese diplomats would visit Tehran soon on behalf of the major powers to urge Iran to cooperate with the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"I expect representatives of the leadership of the Russian Foreign Ministry with Chinese colleagues to visit Tehran to explain the agreements adopted in London and to urge Iran to give precise answers to the questions that the IAEA has presented," Lavrov said, RIA-Novosti reported.

In a joint statement after their late-night talks in London, the foreign ministers said they had agreed that an emergency meeting of the IAEA board on Thursday "should report to the Security Council its decision on the steps required of Iran."

Iran has warned that any move to inform the council about its case would prompt it to curtail snap UN inspections of nuclear facilities and resume enriching uranium, a process used to make fuel for power stations, or bomb-grade material.

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and its chief nuclear negotiator, warned Tuesday on state television: "We consider any referral or report of Iran to the Security Council as the end of diplomacy."

Just before going into the London talks, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that reporting Iran to the council should not end diplomacy. "We believe that there is a lot of life left in the diplomacy," Rice said. "After all, going to the Security Council is not the end of diplomacy. It's just diplomacy in a different, more robust context."

President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, made a pitch for Russian international uranium enrichment centers to help ease international concerns over proliferation.

"We offer the creation of a network of uranium enrichment centers and provide equal and nondiscriminatory access for those who wish to take part in nuclear energy development," Putin told a Kremlin news conference. "This concerns our Iranian partners in particular."

The European Union and United States have backed Russia's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran as a possible way out of the impasse. Iran's top nuclear negotiator visited Moscow last week to discuss the proposal and said it needs more work.

Libyan Energy Minister Fathi Omar Bin Shatwan said referral of Iran's case to the Security Council would have a serious effect on world oil prices, already just shy of record highs.

But Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri eased concerns that the world's fourth-biggest oil producer could curb oil exports in reprisal, as Tehran has previously hinted it may do.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met his Chinese counterpart in London and called for Thursday's IAEA meeting to be cancelled, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said an extensive period of "confidence-building" was required from Iran.

Iran says its nuclear program is only for electricity and that it has a right to nuclear technology. It has alarmed the West by restarting nuclear fuel processing and research, which had been suspended for more than two years.

Last month it removed UN seals on uranium enrichment equipment at its Natanz facility in central Iran.

(Reuters, AP)