Saturday, September 24, 2005

IAEA Board Approves Resolution on Iran

Yahoo News:

By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer

The 35-nation board of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency approved a resolution Saturday that could lead to Iran's referral to the U.N. Security Council for violating a nuclear arms control treaty — something the United States has been urging for years.

The council possibly could impose sanctions if it determined that Iran violated the treaty, but that is unlikely since China and Russia, which wield Security Council vetoes, oppose those efforts.

Diplomats inside the IAEA board meeting said the European Union motion was approved by only 22 of the 35 member nations. Only twice in the past two decades has the IAEA board voted on an issue instead of adopting a resolution by consensus. Twelve nations — including China and Russia — abstained. Venezuela cast the only vote against.

Washington suspects Iran is trying to develop atomic bombs, while Tehran maintains its activities are for generating electricity. Britain, France and Germany have negotiated with Iran on behalf of the 25-nation EU.

Saturday's approval reflected board concern over Iran's "long history of concealment and deception," chief U.S. representative Gregory Schulte said.

The board is "concerned that Iran's activities pose an increasing threat to international peace and security," Schulte said. "The IAEA has called on Iran to ... come clean."

But Iran's delegation head, Javad Vaeidi, said strong opposition by many board members reflected that "there is no consensus on the way forward." He warned of retaliation, declaring: "Threat invokes threat."

Tehran warned Friday that, if the resolution was approved, it could retaliate by starting uranium enrichment — a possible path to nuclear arms — and reduce IAEA powers to inspect its activities under the additional agreement it signed but had not yet ratified.

Diplomats accredited to the agency who requested anonymity because their information was confidential said both threats were contained in unsigned letters and shown by a member of the Iranian delegation to the IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei.

If signed and submitted, the letters become part of the official record.

Diplomats inside Saturday's closed meeting, who demanded anonymity because they were discussing confidential information, said the EU draft resolution adopted by the board was the one submitted Friday after last-minute talks collapsed with Russia and China on modifications meant to make the text milder in exchange for Moscow's and Beijing's overt support.

The EU draft called on the board to consider reporting Iran to the council. As grounds, it mentioned noncompliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and suspicions that Iran's nuclear activities could threaten international peace and security, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.

The Security Council could impose sanctions if it determines that Iran violated the treaty, but the draft did not mention sanctions, in recognition of Russian and Chinese opposition.

Still, it was unequivocal in saying that — unless Iran ends uranium conversion and clears up questions remaining about its past nuclear activities — grounds exist for it to be referred to the Security Council.

A nation's failure to comply with the treaty is automatic grounds for a report to the Security Council under IAEA statutes, and the draft said "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations ... constitute noncompliance."

Additionally, Iran's spotty record on cooperating with an IAEA investigation that began in 2002 has led to an "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes," the document said. That finding puts Iran "within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," the text said.

The draft did not specify a time frame for referral, but outlined what Iran must do to avoid being brought before the Security Council, including giving IAEA experts access to nuclear-related documents and sites, suspending all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and ratifying an inspection agreement with the IAEA.

The Europeans for years avoided U.S. demands for support in its push to haul Iran before the Security Council. They reluctantly swung behind Washington last month after Tehran effectively walked away from talks with Britain, France and Germany meant to reduce suspicions about its nuclear aims and began uranium conversion.

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