The EU-3 negotiations team dealing with the Iranian nuclear crisis agreed Thursday that an emergency meeting of the UN IAEA watchdog should be convened with a view to bringing Iran before the UN Security Council.
Iran's refusal to bow to pressure could see it hauled before the UN Security Council
Europe's big three powers called Thursday for UN Security Council action against Iran over its nuclear program, saying two years of delicate negotiations with Tehran had reached a "dead end."
Speaking at the end of a crisis meeting here after Iran resumed sensitive nuclear fuel activities, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany said they wanted an emergency meeting of the UN atomic watchdog to refer the dossier to the world body's executive.
"We believe the time has now come for the Security Council to become involved to reinforce the authority of IAEA resolutions," the troika said in a statement, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that talks with Iran had reached a "dead end."
"The talks with Iran are at a dead end," Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters at a joint press conference. "We will be calling for an extraordinary IAEA board meeting," he added.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said a planned meeting with Iranian officials on January 18 now "no longer has reason to take place."
Iran is not "worried" about its possible referral to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, a senior nuclear official told state television after the European statement.
"We should not be worried," said Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the deputy to Ali Larijani who is Iran's chief official for the nuclear file. "It is not what we want, but if that's the case ... our officials must plan their policy ... to put on a strong show of diplomacy and make our case" in the Security Council, he said.
President says program will continue for Iran's benefit
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also appeared on state television to say that Iran would press on with its nuclear program to avoid dependency on leading nuclear energy powers who use it as "an economic and political weapon."
"Today, those who have the highest level of nuclear energy, have the nuclear fuel in their claws and are using it as an economic and political weapon," the president told said in a televised speech in the southern Hormuzgan province.
He continued that "in these circumstances we must master the fuel cycle and the peaceful nuclear technology."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had said earlier that it was "highly probable" Tehran would end up being referred to the Security Council, which alone can impose UN sanctions.
The meeting in Berlin was aimed at assessing the international community's response after Iran broke seals at three nuclear facilities in order to resume research into uranium enrichment.
Breakdown ends two-and-a-half years of diplomacy
"For two and a half years we've been working with Iran and the rest of the international community to bring Iran into compliance with its very clear obligations not to do anything that leads to suspicions they are developing a nuclear weapons capability," Straw said before the meeting.
The meeting came as Iran vowed defiance following a furious international response after it broke the seals at the nuclear sites.
A diplomat in Vienna said Iran had now finished removing seals at three nuclear plants, including Natanz.
Mohammed ElBaradei will chair the extraordinary session.
IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei has said Iran plans to start "small-scale" uranium enrichment at Natanz, although a Western diplomat said it would likely take weeks to get the equipment up and running.
With international diplomacy in high gear and China and Russia adding their criticism of Tehran, diplomats in Vienna said the IAEA could call a meeting of the board of governors within weeks.
ElBaradei expected to issue "no progress" report on Iran
The sources said ElBaradei would submit a report which, for the first time, would cite "no progress" on the Iranian nuclear dossier.
"The reason ElBaradei has said he is losing patience is not just about the unraveling" of the agreement to suspend enrichment research, but "it is also about inspections," a Western diplomat close to the agency said.
Separately, Britain and Russia said officials from the so-called EU-3 plus China, Russia and the United States would meet next week in London.
Apart from Germany, the countries to be represented in London are permanent members of the Security Council, without whose approval UN sanctions cannot be imposed.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not be dictated to.
Western suspicions that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons are strongly denied by Tehran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that he would not be intimidated by the "fuss."
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear power stations, but in its highly enriched form it makes the explosive core for atomic weapons.
Iranians defiant over "irreversible" nuclear program
"The decision of Iran to master nuclear technology is irreversible, God willing," said Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, cited by the student Isna agency.
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a senior cleric and still a key influence in the country, said Thursday that nuclear energy was "the desire of our nation, we will pursue it."
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani accuses the West of colonialism.
He said Iran had decided to resume the work and "break the colonial taboos regarding our peaceful nuclear energy (program) since the West's opposition to our peaceful nuclear energy is rooted in their colonial mentality."
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Iran's actions "feed suspicion that this program could have a hidden military aspect."
In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman voiced China's "concern" at Iran's move and urged Tehran to resume dialogue.
US expects Security Council action; Rice to make statement
US diplomats believe they have a majority of votes on the 35-member IAEA board to haul Iran before the Security Council, although it was unclear whether enough support could be mustered for eventual sanctions against Tehran.
The Washington Post quoted US and European officials saying that Russia had pledged not to block efforts to refer Iran to the world body.
Condoleezza Rice and the United States have long pushed for UN sanctions.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will brief the press Thursday on the crisis over Iran's nuclear program after a meeting of Washington's European allies in Berlin, officials said.
The State Department said Rice had scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. (20:00 UTC) after the talks among her "EU-3" counterparts from Germany, France and Britain.
"The secretary will be able to provide the US reaction to the EU-3 statement following the meeting in Berlin," said one department official, who asked not to be named.