VIENNA/TEHRAN 9 (Reuters) – Iran said on Tuesday it had not violated the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but Washington and top EU states were close to agreement on a U.N. resolution strongly hinting Tehran has a weapons program.
“It is a mistake to say that Iran has violated its commitments and Tehran will definitely not accept it,” Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told the official IRNA news agency as the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors met.
International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei criticized Iran on Monday for failing to declare advanced “P2” centrifuges that can be used to make atomic bombs and said both Iran and Libya had violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Diplomats said negotiators for the European Union’s “Big Three,” France, Germany and Britain, agreed with counterparts from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand on the text of an IAEA resolution to be sent to capitals for comments and possible revisions.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the resolution would signal to Tehran it would be punished if it continued to defy the IAEA but stopped short of reporting Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
“We’re not looking for a formal noncompliance resolution at this time, but we’re seeking a strong resolution that keeps pressure on Iran to comply with all its obligations,” he told reporters.
Iran says its program is purely peaceful, but the draft refers to ElBaradei’s finding in his February 24 report that “most of the workshops used in Iran’s centrifuge enrichment program are ‘owned by military industrial organizations.'”
Tehran’s U.N. delegation submitted a letter to the IAEA board saying this part of the report was “not correct” and only “three out of 10 workshops” belonged to the defense industry.
“(Iranians) say the program is civilian, but there are doubts,” said one Western diplomat, declining to be named.
“If it is civilian, why did they produce plutonium, why did they produce polonium-210, why are workshops owned by military industrial organizations?” the diplomat said, referring to weapons-usable items found by the IAEA in Iran.
The IAEA usually seeks to adopt resolution by consensus and diplomats said the agreement on the text of the resolution was not final.
With scant support for a stronger censure, Washington has decided to put off reporting Iran to the Security Council. The United States expects continued IAEA inspections will unearth more evidence that will build its case for going to the world body’s council, a senior State Department official said.
“More of these inspections, more of these efforts can clarify what we pass on to the U.N., when we do,” the official, who asked not to be named, said. He added it was a “logical conclusion” Iran would eventually be referred to the council.
He said the resolution negotiations were “going along properly” and after working on the draft with Germany, France and Britain, the United States had begun trying to get other nations on board.
Diplomats from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which has 13 out of 35 seats on the board, said it was unclear if the draft would be acceptable to them or if it was even needed.
“We don’t believe a resolution was necessary,” Malaysian ambassador Gulam Haniff told reporters on behalf on the NAM.
“It’s important that this be passed by consensus,” he said.
The draft praises Tehran for signing the Additional Protocol in December permitting IAEA snap inspections of nuclear sites, but calls on Iran’s parliament to ratify it quickly.
Iran’s hardline commentator and newspaper editor Hossein Shariatmadari said Tehran should consider following North Korea’s example and quit the NPT if the IAEA did not wrap up its 13-month probe of Iran soon.
The draft, put forward by Australia and Canada and backed by the United States and New Zealand, made a clear comparison between Iran and Libya saying they got similar nuclear equipment “from the same foreign sources.”
But Kharrazi said Iran and Libya, which admitted to its programs in December and has begun dismantling them, should not be compared.
“Comparing Iran and Libya is incorrect,” he said. “Libya has officially announced that it was pursuing nuclear weapons and this is a violation of the NPT, but Iran has not been pursuing nuclear weapons and (has) not violated the NPT.”