The U.N. nuclear watchdog on Saturday reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council in a resolution expressing concern Tehran’s nuclear program may not be “exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
The landmark decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board sets the stage for future action by the top U.N. body, which has the authority to impose economic and political sanctions.
Still, any such moves were weeks if not months away. Two permanent council members, Russia and China, agreed to referral only on condition the council take no action before March.
Twenty-seven nations supported the resolution, which was sponsored by three European powers Britain, France and Germany and backed by the United States.
Cuba, Syria and Venezuela were the only nations to vote against. Five others Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa abstained, a milder form of showing opposition.
Among those backing the referral was India, a nation with great weight in the developing world whose stance was unclear until the vote.
Reacting to referral, Javed Vaeidi, the deputy head of Iran’s powerful Security Council, said his country would “immediately” set into motion steps to restart work on full-scale uranium enrichment and curtail the inspecting powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
After approval by the Security Council, Iran would stop honoring an agreement with the IAEA allowing its inspectors broad powers to monitor and probe Tehran’s nuclear activities, he told reporters. And he said his country would start work on full-scale uranium enrichment an activity that can produce the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Iran says it wants to enrich only to make nuclear fuel, but concerns that it might misuse the technology accelerated the chain of events that led to Saturday’s Security Council referral, after Tehran took IAEA seals off enrichment equipment Jan. 10 and said it would resume small-scale activities.
Vaeidi on Friday said referral would mean his country would no longer consider an internationally supported plan to move his country’s enrichment to Russia as a way of depriving Iran direct access to the technology. On Saturday, however, he said his country was still considering a response to the Russian plan.