Iran on Sunday announced it was partially suspending cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, the Vienna-based IAEA, because of the latest U.N. Security sanctions imposed on it, a government spokesman said.
Gholam Hossein Elham, the spokesman, told state television that the suspension would "continue until Iran's nuclear case is referred back to the IAEA from the U.N Security Council."
Elham said the government in a Cabinet meeting Sunday decided to suspend "code 1-3 of minor arrangements of the safeguards" with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The provision expects a member to inform the IAEA on any new steps and decisions made concerning a country's nuclear program.
The move from Tehran was a gesture in apparent retaliation for the sanctions unanimously-approved Saturday by the U.N. Security Council because of Tehran's refusal to stop enriching uranium.
The sanctions, which send a strong message to Tehran that its defiance will leave it increasingly isolated and warn of even tougher penalties ahead, were immediately rejected by Iran which said it had no intention of suspending its enrichment program.
"Iran's threat of pulling back from IAEA cooperation was expected as retaliation for the U.N. Security Council vote," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk, "but it is causing concern because a feared consequence, if diplomacy and pressure do not work, is for Iran follow North Korea's lead and withdraw from participation in the Non Proliferation Treaty."
Tehran claims it needs the uranium enrichment for electricity generating purposes while the United States and its allies fear the controversial program is used for nuclear arms making.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Sunday he hoped for an early resumption of negotiations with Iran following the U.N. Security Council's decision to impose new sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to bring its nuclear program into line with international demands.
Solana told reporters he was seeking immediate talks with Iran's top negotiator, Ali Larijani.
"We want to get in touch with Dr. Larijani, this morning if we can, to try to find a route that would allow us to go into the negotiations," Solana told reporters on the sidelines of an EU summit. "The door is open for negotiations; let's see if together we can go through."
Solana led largely unsuccessful international diplomatic efforts for months to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment before the U.N. first decided to impose sanctions in December. He last met with Larijani at a security conference last month in Munich, and the two have spoken once on the telephone since then.
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also urged Iran to comply with U.N. resolutions "in order to clear the way for the start of negotiations."
He stressed that the incentives package offered to Tehran last year remains on the table and said the U.N. would suspend the sanctions if Iran suspends enrichment activities.
"We are maintaining this offer of a double suspension," said Steinmeier, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
The sanctions, approved unanimously by the Security Council in New York, include banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
They also ask countries to restrict travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, as well as arms sales to Iran and new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.
The new measures have also asked IAEA to report back in 60 days on whether Iran has suspended enrichment and warned of further measures if it did not.
But it also said all sanctions would be suspended if Iran halts enrichment and made clear that Tehran can still accept a package of economic incentives and political rewards offered last year if it complies with the council's demands.
Elham, the government spokesman, said that until now Iran's cooperation with the IAEA went beyond the requirements under the international Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran is a signatory to.
In the past Iran has kept "promptly informing" the IAEA under the organization's safeguards about its nuclear plans, Elham said, while treaty requires a country to give a wide, six-month advance notice. In 2002, Iran began voluntarily implementing the IAEA safeguards.
Iran's measure is a response to "Saturday night's illegal and bullying resolution by Security Council," Elham said.
The government was acting fully within Iranian law in deciding to revise its cooperation with the IAEA.