- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

U.S. and European diplomats in Vienna, Austria, yesterday agreed on a compromise resolution that would condemn Iran for continuing to hide parts of its nuclear-weapons programs, but put off the possibility of international sanctions for at least two months.

The deal on a draft resolution, which was softer in tone than a text favored by the Bush administration, comes as leading U.S. officials continued to insist Iran has not come clean on its clandestine efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in an interview with Fox News yesterday, called Iran “a nation that has spent a lot of time trying to deceive the world with respect to its programs, and we won’t be satisfied until everything is known about those programs.”

The 35-nation board of governors of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, could have cited Iran for violating past promises not to pursue nuclear programs and referred the question to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. The compromise draft notes Iran’s nuclear activities with “the most serious concern,” but puts off any formal IAEA recommendation until the board’s next meeting in June.

A State Department official, briefing reporters on background, said the continued IAEA scrutiny could serve U.S. interests, allowing U.N. inspectors more time on the ground to uncover the extent of the Iranian programs before any confrontation at the Security Council in New York.

“Frankly, we felt there was more to be found out this way,” the official said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told the state-run IRNA news agency that Tehran would “not accept” an IAEA finding that the country is in violation of its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“Shortcomings, which could have taken place in many countries, all belong to the past and most of them have been solved,” he said.

U.S. hopes for a stronger condemnation of Iran by the IAEA board were resisted by Britain, France and Germany, which last fall reached an agreement with Iran to allow international inspections.

The draft text, according to accounts filed by numerous wire services from Vienna, says that Iran’s disclosures to date fall short of the “correct, complete and final picture of Iran’s past and present nuclear program” that was demanded in an IAEA resolution approved in November.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday criticized Tehran for failing to disclose design drawings in its files of advanced centrifuges that could be used to make atomic bombs.

But the compromise text also praises Iran for agreeing to allow international inspections of its suspect facilities. The draft document also puts off any punitive action until the board meets again in June and makes no direct mention of any Security Council action.

The State Department official said the agreement between the United States and its European allies is only the first step in obtaining approval of the resolution. The text must be approved by all 35 nations on the IAEA board, and some nonaligned countries represented in Vienna said they still have doubts that a critical resolution is needed.

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