Iran in Last-Minute Bid to Avoid Security Council

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - Iran has launched a two-pronged attempt to forestall moves to take it to the U.N. Security Council over its controversial nuclear program. On Friday, it called for one last meeting with European governments and sought support for its stance from Muslim and developing countries.

Tehran's top nuclear negotiator was to meet with British, French and German ministers and officials in Vienna, shortly after accusing the U.S. of trying to undermine a Russian compromise proposal aimed at resolving the crisis.

The proposal would have allowed Iran to enrich limited amounts of uranium at a facility in Russia, but it also required Iran to restore a moratorium on enriching uranium at home, a precondition Iran has rejected. The enrichment process produces fuel that can be used in civilian or nuclear programs.

Friday's talks with the European Union trio, called at Iran's request, come just three days before a crucial International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors' meeting that could result in Security Council steps against Tehran.

The board will consider a report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

Ahead of the meeting, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is visiting Malaysia to garner support for his country's position.

Malaysia currently chairs the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Between them the two bodies account for 16 of the 35 members on the IAEA board, although at the last IAEA meeting, in early February, non-aligned solidarity crumbled.

Eight of the 16 - India, Egypt, Yemen, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Singapore and Sri Lanka - voted against Iran.

Five others - Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa - abstained, while the remaining three, Venezuela, Cuba and Syria, sided with Iran.

Malaysia is not itself currently an IAEA board member, but as OIC and NAM chairman wields some influence among the developing and Muslim nations.

In Kuala Lumpur, Ahmadinejad said in a speech Friday that the IAEA's treatment of Iran was "politically motivated."

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar reiterated his government's stance that nuclear technology for peaceful energy purposes should be allowed.

Iran maintains its program is solely designed to generate electricity, but Western nations suspect that it's a cover for a program to develop bombs, and the IAEA wants assurances which it says Iran has yet to provide.

Although Iran appears to be looking for last-minute ways to avoid the involvement of the Security Council, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Thursday that the U.S. expected the Council to take up the matter after Monday, irrespective of what happens at the board meeting.

He accused Tehran of carrying out a nuclear program that was "characterized by deception and prevarication."

"If Iran has a problem with the state of affairs and the situation it finds itself in, Iran has only Iran to blame."

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow