- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

The United States met fresh opposition in its effort to send a nuclear dispute with Iran to the U.N. Security Council, prompting the European Union’s three main powers to drop a demand for immediate action yesterday.

Instead, France, Britain and Germany offered a watered-down resolution to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, at a meeting in Vienna, Austria.

Opposition by Russia — which with China, India and a number of nonaligned countries on the 35-nation IAEA board has fought the idea of a referral — prompted the EU decision.

“This is a plane that does not fly,” Grigory Berdennikov, Russian IAEA ambassador, told reporters.

Iran hailed the EU decision.

The substitute draft “was a significant victory for us,” said Javad Saeedi, a member of the Iranian IAEA delegation. “Our firm stance, China and Russia’s backing, and also a lack of legal basis caused the EU’s retreat.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack insisted yesterday that the international front against Tehran is holding firm, and that the negotiations over timing and language amount to “diplomatic tactics” in the service of the larger strategy.

“We have no doubt that if Iran continues on the path it has chosen to follow for these past years — pursuing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program — that they would be reported and should be reported to the Security Council,” Mr. McCormack said.

“In terms of the strategic objective, I think everybody is on the same page.”

Diplomats in Vienna said the Western allies were prepared to submit the tougher first draft resolution for a board vote if the compromise version was rejected.

The earlier EU draft called for IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to report Iran immediately to the Security Council for action if it did not comply with provisions of the international treaty on nonproliferation.

The new draft, circulated yesterday by EU officials, said only that Iran’s repeated violations of IAEA agreements in the past and doubts about the peaceful intent of its present programs gave “rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council.”

The draft said the next scheduled board meeting of the IAEA in November could take up again the question of a referral to the Security Council.

The EU partners had been offering Iran a series of diplomatic and economic incentives if it stopped its program to enrich uranium, a key step in the making of bombs.

Under international pressure, Iran agreed to suspend enrichment activities in November 2004, but has recently withdrawn from the agreement.

New hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken a tough stand on Tehran’s nuclear programs, insisting Iran has the right to enrich uranium on its own soil and threatening to punish nations that buy Iran’s oil and gas if they support sanctions.

The new team of negotiators Mr. Ahmadinejad appointed after his surprise election in June says Iran would consider immediate resumption of uranium enrichment activities and restrict the access of international inspectors if the country is referred to the Security Council.

Just what would happen even if the Security Council took up the Iran question is not clear.

China and Russia, both with significant economic interests in Iran, hold vetoes on the Security Council and have opposed the idea of economic and other sanctions against Iran.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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