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Diplomats: US backs off Iran nuke plans
( 2003-09-06 10:37) (Agencies)

The Bush administration is backing away from asking the U.N. Security Council to look at Iran's suspect nuclear activities because it expects little support from other countries at an upcoming meeting of the U.N. atomic agency, diplomats said Friday.

The United States will instead agree to present a less strongly worded resolution at next week's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors urging Iran to open up its nuclear programs to unfettered access, said a senior diplomat familiar with the U.S. plans.

The decision was seen as a victory for Iran, which has warned that Washington would be isolated if it seeks strong censure of Tehran.

The United States had been seeking to have the IAEA meeting declare Iran in noncompliance of its nuclear obligations. A report to be presented at the meeting, which opens Monday, outlines inconsistencies between what U.N. agency inspectors found and what Iran says it is doing in the nuclear field.

Among the most worrying findings were traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium at one facility and experiments experts say are normally used in weapons programs rather than for generating electricity as Iran maintains.

An official familiar with preparations for the board meeting who, like the diplomat, spoke on condition of anonymity said the United States lacked support for a noncompliance resolution. IAEA member states found in noncompliance can be reported to the Security Council, which can take steps ranging from criticism to sanctions.

Instead, the resolution, which is still being drafted and must be approved by the board, will likely call on Iran to come up with answers to questions raised in the report and provide full disclosure of its program.

The resolution could also set a deadline for Iran to fully comply and warn that if it does not, it will be declared in noncompliance, another diplomat said. That would open the way for Security Council involvement.

Kenneth Brill, the chief U.S. IAEA delegate, declined comment on what the Americans were seeking. But he said the United States and other board members see an effort by Iran, "to evade international obligations and to seek the capacity to build nuclear weapons."

"It's fair to say that the majority of board members will want to see Iran ... enhance its cooperation," and "provide the answers to all the questions that are outstanding," he said.

IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said Iran had "a program of concern," adding, "We need to urgently resolve our outstanding questions around their nuclear program."

The latest confidential board report, obtained by The Associated Press, says agency inspectors found traces of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium at a facility at Natanz, about 300 miles south of Tehran, as well as other inconsistencies with what Tehran has reported.

Iran asserts the centrifuge components were "contaminated" with enriched uranium before they were purchased by Tehran and the origin of the components cannot be determined because they were bought from intermediaries.

Suspicion about Iran's nuclear program prompted Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the Vienna-based IAEA, to tour Iran's nuclear facilities in February, including the Natanz plant. At the time, diplomats said he was taken aback by the advanced stage of a project using hundreds of centrifuges to enrich uranium.

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