- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday he was “happy” with a U.S.-European compromise on Iran’s nuclear programs even though it stopped short of referring Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Other U.S. officials said, however, that, given Iran’s past attempts to conceal its nuclear ambitions, there is a good chance that it might get caught in noncompliance again soon.

This is why the United States insisted on a so-called “trigger” paragraph in the resolution, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to adopt today.

That paragraph — the main source of contention in the document’s final drafts — says Iran’s case will be sent automatically to the IAEA Board of Governors in the event of any future violations of its nonproliferation obligations.

Mr. Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw — the principal European negotiator — labored over the “trigger” text in several phone calls over the weekend, a senior State Department official said.

“The resolution notes all that Iran has been doing over the years, with respect to its nuclear programs,” Mr. Powell told reporters yesterday. “It notes that Iran has been in breach of obligations.”

The United States gave up its demand that the IAEA declare Iran guilty of noncompliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) after it became clear that the Europeans would not drop their opposition.

A recent IAEA report found that Iran had been violating nuclear safeguards for the past 18 years, Europe argued that it would be counterproductive to antagonize Tehran at a time when it is offering unprecedented cooperation with the international agency.

The European nations on Oct. 21 secured an agreement with Iran that led to its filing a comprehensive report on its nuclear programs, pledging to allow wider inspections and suspending the enrichment of uranium.

The compromise reached between Mr. Powell and Mr. Straw “was the best deal we could get,” a U.S. official said. “We had to give [the Europeans] some of the things they wanted.”

A Western diplomat in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said in an interview that, while the Bush administration maintained a tough public position against Iran, in private its negotiators “were becoming more practical.”

“I’m very happy with the resolution,” Mr. Powell said. “I’d like to thank my European Union colleagues who worked so hard on it, especially the EU three, as well as other members of the IAEA Board of Governors, that we’ve worked closely with.”

The “EU three” — Britain, Germany and France — tabled the draft Monday. It is expected to be adopted without a formal vote today, the diplomat said.

The IAEA board began a series of meetings Thursday to consider its response to a report from the IAEA director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, saying Tehran had violated nuclear safeguards for 18 years, including making small amounts of plutonium and enriched uranium.

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