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Iran Threatens Retaliation on Nuclear Vote


Today Iran threatened to nullify energy contracts with nations that voted against it at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Over the weekend the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution to refer the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council. Iran has already threatened to resume uranium enrichment and end snap decisions of its nuclear facilities if the resolution is not rescinded. NPR's Mike Shuster reports.

MIKE SHUSTER reporting:

The threat today came from Iran's Foreign Ministry. Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran would reconsider its economic cooperation with those countries that voted against it. Twenty-two of the nations on the IAEA's 35-member board voted against Iran. They included the three European nations--Great Britain, France and Germany--that had been negotiating with Iran to make its freeze on nuclear activities permanent. Those talks broke down in August when Iran resumed uranium processing at a plant at Isfahan. Also among those voting against Iran was India, which recently signed a $22 billion deal to import Iranian natural gas. It was this vote that surprised Iran, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The resolution adopted in Vienna calls for referral to the UN Security Council because of Iran's long policy of deceiving the international community about its nuclear programs. But the issue will not go to the Security Council until the IAEA issues another report in November. The resolution represents a diplomatic success for the US, whose representative at the IAEA is Greg Schulte.

Mr. GREG SCHULTE (US Representative, IAEA): Iran's pattern of deception, its concealment, its confrontational approach increasingly worry the world community. The IAEA has called upon Iran to cease the activities that give us such concern.

SHUSTER: Iran lobbied hard to prevent such a resolution and in part succeeded. The IAEA board usually works by consensus, and the US and the Europeans were forced to weaken the resolution's language in order to get the votes it did. Russia and China abstained and, with their veto power in the Security Council, are likely to block any harsh action against Iran there. But, still, Iran's representative to the IAEA, Javid Viedi(ph), suggested Iran would retaliate in some fashion against those who supported the resolution.

Mr. JAVID VIEDI (Iranian Representative, IAEA): There is no consensus on the way to go forward. For us goodwill begets goodwill while threat invokes threat.

SHUSTER: The Europeans say they were especially dismayed by a hard-line speech the new president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made at the UN earlier this month. All along Iran has insisted it is pursuing its nuclear programs for civilian purposes only. In his UN speech, Ahmadinejad threatened to reconsider Iran's entire approach to the nuclear issue. That hardened the European stand, according to Javier Solana, the European Union's director of foreign policy.

Mr. JAVIER SOLANA (Foreign Policy Director, European Union): They were telling us in their private discussions that the president will be constructive and open-minded. In his speech at the United Nations, it was the opposite. It was a great disappointment. There's no support, really, at this point in time by the policy of Iran.

SHUSTER: Emphasizing the need to return to consensus, the head of the IAEA, Mohamad ElBaradei, appealed to all sides to resume negotiations.

Mr. MOHAMAD ELBARADEI (IAEA): The only way we can move forward on the number one security issue we are facing today, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, is to stay united. We will all win together. We can also all lose together.

SHUSTER: The next IAEA board meeting will be held in November, and another vote will be needed before the UN Security Council puts Iran's nuclear activities on its agenda. Mike Shuster, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.