- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 25, 2004

VIENNA, Austria — Iran insisted yesterday that it had a right to exempt some equipment from an agreement with the European Union that requires the country to freeze all parts of a program that can make nuclear-weapons-grade uranium — a move that diplomats said threatened to scuttle the deal.

Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, said Iran still refuses to include some centrifuges in the agreement, which the European Union says mandates a suspension of all activities related to enrichment.

Mr. ElBaradei spoke as board members of his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) grappled with the text of a resolution intended to police Iran’s suspension pledge.

Iran says it only wants to produce nuclear fuel, but the United States and some allies insist that Tehran seeks to make highly enriched uranium, which is used in the core of nuclear warheads.

A European delegate described Iran’s latest move as an attempt to wrest concessions on the language of the resolution. Tehran wants any text stripped of even the most indirect allusions to a “trigger mechanism” that would enable the board to ask the U.N. Security Council to deal with violations of the suspension pledge.

But another European delegate said that unless agreement is reached with the Europeans, Iran’s apparent ploy could backfire and generate support for ongoing U.S. effort for Security Council involvement. Both delegates spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Diplomats said the Americans were unhappy with the draft, which makes no direct reference to the possibility of referral to the Security Council. But Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said the text was too tough and would have to be watered down.

“This resolution is not a good resolution,” Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as saying.

The IAEA board was scheduled to deal with the Iran resolution today. But disagreements threatened to delay it and extend the meeting into the weekend.

Separately, Mr. Elbaradei said Pakistan gave the agency approval in principle to inspect some of its nuclear equipment to test contentions by Tehran that enriched uranium inadvertently was imported on components from that country brought on the nuclear black market.

Mr. ElBaradei said his inspectors would be able to verify a suspension of all enrichment-related programs “with one exception” — centrifuges that Iran insists are not part of the freeze agreement and says it needs to run for research purposes.

The last-minute Iranian push fed fears that Tehran might not be keen to ease concerns about its nuclear agenda.

Iran’s new demands did not signal an immediate danger, however, because thousands of centrifuges must operate for months to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear warhead. Iran ultimately plans to run 50,000 centrifuges for what it insists is a peaceful nuclear-energy program.

But a Western delegate said exempting even relatively few centrifuges from a freeze would allow the Iranians to fine-tune enrichment activities in preparation for full enrichment.

The Europeans say the deal committed Iran to full suspension of enrichment and all related activities while the two sides discuss a pact meant to provide Iran with EU technical and economic aid and other concessions.

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