Annan urges Iran to freeze nuclear plans, talk
Updated: 2006-02-10 09:51
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Iran on Thursday to freeze its nuclear activities so negotiations can go on with Russia and European Union powers over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran has announced it would resume enrichment of nuclear fuel after the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted last weekend to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program.
But there has been no sign that it has actually begun to carry out enrichment-related activity, U.N. diplomats say.
Annan has consistently sought to delay Security Council action on Iran, hoping to resolve the impasse over Iran's nuclear intentions in Vienna or through negotiations.
"What is important is that both sides have said negotiations are not dead, both sides are prepared to talk. I would urge them to continue," Annan told reporters.
"In the meantime, it will be important that no steps are taken that will escalate the already tense situation, and I hope Iran will continue to freeze its activities the way they are now, to allow talks to go forward," he said.
The vote by the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog called for IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the U.N. Security Council by March 6 on Iran's response to demands that it suspend its enrichment activities and better cooperate with the agency.
The IAEA acted at the behest of the United States and European Union, which say that Iran is intent on developing nuclear arms and that talks with Tehran are at a dead end.
But Iran and Russia are due to hold talks in Moscow on February 16 on a Russian proposal to process uranium for Iran's nuclear power stations and China said this week it felt an international standoff with Iran should be defused through talks rather than in the Security Council, which can impose punitive measures on Iran.
Tehran also has expressed an interest in resuming talks with the various parties but insists it wants only to generate electricity and does not seek nuclear arms.
Annan also appeared to side with Russia and China -- and against the United States and EU -- in a dispute over the meaning of last Saturday's IAEA board vote.
"If the issue were to be referred here to the (Security) Council, I would work with the member states to find the best way to deal with it," Annan said.
Russia and China insist that despite the IAEA vote, the Iran dossier remains in Vienna and the Security Council has no green light to launch proceedings against Tehran. But Washington and the EU say the vote meant the matter is now before the council as well as the IAEA.
Moscow's U.N. ambassador, Andrei Denisov, said much would depend on what happened after the February 16 Moscow meeting and further consultations between the IAEA and Iran.
"We need strong irrefutable evidence that Iran is engaged in atomic weapons," Denisov told a news conference. "This is not a play where there are good guys and bad guys, black and white. We desire to have as much a clear picture as possible and nobody can do it but the IAEA."