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S. Korea prepares steps to follow IAEA report on Iran: sources

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 1, 2011 - 17:17

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WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― South Korean officials are reviewing “realistic options” in case they face pressure to impose fresh sanctions on Iran, diplomatic sources here said Monday, as the U.N. nuclear watchdog is preparing to release a major report on Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to link Iran’s UEP with weapons development in the new assessment to be issued before the agency’s board of governors meeting in Vienna in mid-November, added the sources.

The move will apparently intensify a diplomatic rivalry at the U.N. Security Council. The U.S., Britain and France are seeking tough measures against Iraq for its UEP, while China and Russia remain more cautious.

Iran claims it is just pursuing peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

“The upcoming IAEA report is expected to reflect more of the U.S. position that views Iran’s UEP as a serious threat to the international security,” a source said, requesting anonymity. “It would provide the U.S. with more ammunition to push for tougher sanctions on Iran.”

In that case, South Korea will face a dilemma once again between pressure to join the U.S. efforts and concern over damage to bilateral relations with Teheran, Seoul’s largest trading partner in the Middle East.

“South Korean officials are reviewing legal and realistic measures that they can take,” the source said.

Last year, South Korea slapped financial sanctions on Iran in accordance with a U.N. Security Council resolution, including a two-month suspension of the Seoul branch of Iran’s Bank Mellat, which was accused of facilitating financial transactions for its nuclear and missile activities.

The bank recently filed a lawsuit against the South Korean government for the punitive measure, saying the allegations of illicit transactions are groundless.

Meanwhile, Gary Samore, senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama on disarmament, rejected South Korea’s invitation to attend an annual U.N. forum Nov. 7-8 on the southern resort island of Jeju, citing a busy schedule before the IAEA meeting, according to the sources.