Iran warns of domino effect of nuclear attack
Iran warned today that an attack on its nuclear facilities would trigger a "domino" effect across the Middle East as deeply divided world powers met to review Teheran's co-operation with United Nations resolutions.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has endorsed Iranian promises that access to suspected nuclear facilities will increase in the months ahead. At a meeting of the body's 35-country board of governors in Vienna today, battle lines were drawn both over Mr ElBaradei's faith in an Iranian blueprint and the text of the IAEA's latest report which said Iran had cleared up several key questions about its past research.
America and Britain are pushing for the UN to quickly impose a third round of sanctions on Iran to reinforce the drive to close the Islamic Republic's secret programme of atomic research, which appears to be slowly yielding the capability to make a nuclear weapon.
China and Russia, which have not yet swung behind new sanctions, appear poised to back Mr ElBaradei's calls for negotiators to be given more time.
"ElBaradei wants to get across that Iran has shown real willingness to co-operate and we are making important progress, so let's stick with it," said a Vienna-based diplomat.
His argument is unlikely to impress those nations alarmed by a line in his nine-page report - released last week - conceding the IAEA's knowledge of Teheran's current atomic activities was "diminishing".
The UN Security Council has adopted two rounds of sanctions resolutions against Teheran since last December.
Teheran has responded with a mixture of bluster and apparent readiness to negotiate.
Negotiations with the European Union's chief foreign policy official, Javier Solana, over a compensation package in return for Iran suspending all its efforts to enrich uranium are scheduled to take place in London next week.
Iran's newly installed chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said today that a slide to war would lead to a backlash against the West across the region, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, where American leads an international military coalition.