The international community is not considering military action against Iran over its nuclear program, the European Union's foreign policy chief said Sunday as senior officials prepared to meet in London to discuss hauling the country before the U.N. Security Council. Javier Solana said he hoped united international pressure would force Tehran back into negotiations over its uranium enrichment activities.
Senior officials from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States gather in London on Monday to discuss what action to take against Iran for removing some U.N. seals from its main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.
The move alarmed Western nations that suspect Tehran is trying to develop the technology and infrastructure to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists it only wants to produce electricity.
After more than two years of tense negotiations, Britain, France and Germany last week declared that talks had reached a "dead end" and called an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Backed by Washington, the three countries want Iran referred to the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions.
But they need the support of Russia and China, which have close commercial ties with Iran and have in the past resisted such a measure. China, which is highly dependent on Iran for oil, warned that referral would escalate the confrontation. The support of Russia, which is deeply involved in building Iranian reactors for power generation, is also uncertain. Monday's talks aim to build consensus ahead of the IAEA board meeting, expected in early February.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, whose country holds a seat on the IAEA board of governors, said he backed referral to the Security Council, the AP reported.
"In the coming weeks serious efforts will be undertaken with Russia and China to persuade them that some sort of action is needed," he said on VRT television Sunday.
Solana called on Iran to prove to the international community that its program was peaceful. Pressured on whether the West may threaten military action in the future if Iran remained defiant, Solana said: "I hope very much that way before we have to take a decision like that, the Iranians will feel isolated in the international community and it is much better for them to return to the table," said Solana, in an interview with British ITV television.
Solana said he hoped Tehran would not end cooperation with the IAEA, as it has threatened to do if referred to the Security Council, saying that would be a "tremendous breach of confidence and trust."
With the backing of Russia and China uncertain, European diplomats have been unwilling to talk publicly about what sanctions could be imposed in Tehran. Economic sanctions targeting oil and gas exports are thought unlikely. Iran is OPEC's second-largest producer and preventing it from doing business could disrupt the world's energy markets, the AP reported.
A European diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said the Security Council was more likely to initially pass a resolution recognizing the danger of nuclear proliferation in Iran, in a symbolic show of international unity.