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(photo credit: )
Iran warned Friday it no longer would consider a Kremlin proposal to move its uranium enrichment program to Russia if it is referred to the UN Security Council by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The proposal was meant to defuse concerns about Tehran's uranium enrichment ambitions.
If the Security Council becomes involved, "there will be no way we can continue with the Russian proposal," said Javad Vaeidi, the deputy head of Iran's National Security Council.
Officials in Tehran have previously suggested that referral could endanger the proposal.
But Vaeidi's comments were the first to state outright that Iran would stop considering the plan, which has broad international backing.
Grigory Berdennikov, Russia's chief IAEA delegate, denied any threat to the proposal.
"Our offer is still on the table and the negotiations will continue," he said Friday.
Diplomats finished fine-tuning a resolution calling for Iran's referral to the UN Security Council by Friday evening and awaited final approval from their governments before submitting it to the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board for a decision.
The board was expected to approve the resolution at a meeting on Saturday, with no more than about 10 board members expected to abstain or oppose referral, said the diplomats. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
Vaeidi acknowledged that referral seemed inevitable, telling reporters: "This is an adopted draft.
"It means that the US and the EU-3 are intending to kill two issues: First to stop diplomacy and second to kill the Russian proposal," he said, alluding to France, Britain and Germany, the countries proposing referral in a resolution before the board.
Iranian officials are expected in Moscow on Feb. 16 for talks on Moscow's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran's nuclear program on Russia soil. The offer, backed by the United States and the European Union, is intended to make it more difficult for Tehran to develop weapons.
Iranian officials have welcomed the proposal but say it needs work, leading to suspicions that they are stalling.
Vaeidi also reiterated earlier threats that Iran will resume full-scale work on uranium enrichment and stop honoring an agreement giving IAEA inspectors broad powers to conduct short-notice inspections of his country's nuclear program.
"I advise them not to make a historical mistake," he said, alluding to nations actively backing referral.
Support for Iran at the Vienna meeting appeared to be limited Friday. Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and a few other countries represented at the IAEA board meeting remained opposed. India was said to be leaning toward supporting referral. Egypt, one senior diplomat said, was insisting on mention of a nuclear-free Middle East zone - an allusion to demands that Israel disarm.
Diplomats said backing for Iran had shrunk among the UN nuclear watchdog's board since Russia and China swung their support behind referral at a meeting with the United States, France and Britain - the other three permanent council members - earlier in the week.
Chief US delegate Gregory L. Schulte said there was a "solid majority in support of a resolution that reports Iran to the Security Council - and that majority is growing."
In Tehran, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, now leader of the powerful Expediency Council, said taking Iran before the Security Council would be a "black page" in history.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has stressed that even if the issue is referred, the Security Council would not take up the issue before next month - a condition attached by Russia and China in exchange for their support.
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