Iran struck back Tuesday at the Big Five powers' decision to refer Iran's nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council, saying the move would mean the end of diplomacy over its atomic program.
Still, in what appeared to be an attempt to show it was cooperating with the West, Iran handed over documents last week to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on casting uranium into the shape of a warhead, diplomats in Vienna, Austria, said.
At a London meeting that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday, envoys of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States decided they would recommend Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency should report Iran to the Security Council. They also decided the Security Council should wait until the IAEA issues a report on Iran in March before tackling the issue.
"The breakthrough agreement by all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council sends a united message to Iran that the world will not tolerate nuclear weapons development," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, interviewed on CBS News Up To The Minute, "but the agreement was achieved by the decision to take no action until the final International Atomic Energy Agency report in March, giving Iran a face-saving way to get back on track with its commitment to close down its facilities."
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, reproached Europe for the London decision and repeated that Tehran will resume suspended nuclear activities and bar surprise U.N. inspections of facilities if it is referred to the Security Council.
"In case of referral ..., we have to stop all nuclear work that has been voluntarily suspended and stop implementation of the Additional Protocol," Larijani told reporters.
Uranium enrichment is the chief activity that Iran has suspended, but Larijani stopped short of specifying a resumption of enrichment.
Under the protocols, Iran agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to carry out surprise inspections of its nuclear sites with as little as two hours' notice. The deal also lets them inspect sites Iran has not officially declared as nuclear facilities — such as the Parchin military base outside of Tehran that inspectors visited in October, suspecting that nuclear activity was taking place there.
Iran's parliament passed a law last year requiring the government to block intrusive inspections of Iran's facilities if the IAEA refers the Iranian program to the Security Council.
The law also requires Iran to resume all nuclear activities it had stopped voluntarily, foremost among them enriching uranium.
Iran insists it has the right as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to build nuclear power stations and produce fuel by enriching its own uranium. But the United States and Europe suspect Iran aims to use enrichment to produce nuclear weapons, an accusation Iran denies.
Earlier, state television reported that Larijani said referral to the Security Council will be "unconstructive and the end of diplomacy."
"Europeans should pay more attention. Iran has called for dialogue and is moving in the direction of reaching an agreement through peaceful means," he said. "The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn't welcome this. We still think that this issue can be resolved peacefully. We recommend them not to do it."
But French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said the international community could reverse course if Tehran cooperates. "For us, the diplomatic path is not closed," Mattei said.
Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also runs Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said there was no "legal justification to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council," according to the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.
In Vienna, Iran's oil minister said the nuclear issue would not affect Iranian oil policy.
"We have no reason to stop our exports" because of the nuclear issue, Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said before Tuesday's meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, where members agreed to hold crude-oil production steady at 28 million barrels a day. "From our point of view there's no link between the two."
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