- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 11, 2004

BERLIN — Europe’s major powers have agreed to set a November deadline for Iran to meet demands over its nuclear program, according to a confidential document made available yesterday to the Associated Press.

The draft resolution was prepared by France, Germany and Britain for tomorrow’s start of a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The draft contains a so-called “trigger mechanism,” warning of possible “further steps” — which diplomats defined as shorthand for referral of Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council.

Iran is developing technology to enrich uranium, which can be used to fuel nuclear-power plants or atomic bombs.

The draft is likely to undergo changes before the three nations submit it at the board meeting of the IAEA, and it still has to be approved by two-thirds of the 35 board members.

But it is significant because it puts the three European countries the closest they have formally been to the United States on what to do about Iran and its nuclear activities.

Washington insists that Iran’s nuclear efforts show it is trying build a nuclear bomb.

Up to now, the European countries have resisted U.S. attempts to have Iran hauled before the Security Council or even hint on a date for such possible action.

The draft says Iran must suspend all activities related to nuclear enrichment — including manufacturing of centrifuges — and must meet all requirements posed by the IAEA in its probe into Iran’s nuclear activities before IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei reports to the board again in November.

On the basis of Mr. ElBaradei’s report, the board will “probably” make a “definite determination on whether or not further steps are required,” the draft said.

“This is a ‘trigger’ that can be pulled if the November board deems it necessary,” one diplomat said.

While the last board meeting in June censured Iran for past cover-ups and warned it has little time left to disprove it has a nuclear-weapons program, it didn’t impose a deadline or even indirectly threaten sanctions.

But since then, Iran’s earlier commitments to stop some uranium enrichment and related activities have eroded — alienating the three European nations.

Last week, Iran confirmed an IAEA report that it planned to convert about 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the gas put into centrifuges for enrichment.

Iran’s original suspension pledge came in a deal with Britain, Germany and France, but fell short of European demands that Tehran scrap enrichment.

Iran is not obliged to halt enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but Tehran has been under international pressure for more than a year to fully renounce enrichment to counterbalance suspicions generated by nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activities that came to light only two years ago.

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