VIENNA, Austria – U.S. and European negotiators agreed Monday on how to condemn Iran for hiding its nuclear programs while still encouraging it to cooperate with the U.N. atomic agency.
The proposed resolution was weaker than the United States had wanted. U.S. officials had hoped that Iran’s past nuclear cover-ups would be enough for the U.N. Security Council to get involved. The council has the power to impose international sanctions.
The draft avoids any direct mention of the Security Council, but warns the agency would use “all options at its disposal” — an allusion to the council.
The draft broke days of deadlock at the International Atomic Energy Agency. It was formally submitted to the agency’s board of governors, who are to resume a meeting on Wednesday, said diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We’ve reached agreement,” said one of the diplomats. “We’re all set for Wednesday.”
The diplomats told The Associated Press that the draft included a “trigger mechanism” demanded by the United States in the form of a clause indirectly threatening Security Council action should Iran was found guilty of “further significant failures” — new evidence of clandestine activities or failure to honor its new commitments to the IAEA.
“Should any further serious Iranian failures come to light, the board of governors would meet immediately to consider in light of the circumstances and the advice of the (IAEA) director general, all options at its disposal, in accordance with the IAEA statute and Iran’s safeguard agreement,” the clause stated, as read to the AP by a diplomat.
Last week, Washington had insisted it would hold out for at least a threat of Security Council action over 18 years of clandestine activities by Iran including uranium enrichment and plutonium processing. U.S. officials say those activities point to a nuclear weapons agenda.
France, Germany and Britain instead put forward a relatively softly worded draft resolution meant to focus on encouraging Iran to open its nuclear programs to stringent IAEA scrutiny. That was rejected by Washington, leading to a days-long impasse.
As the text of the draft was still developing earlier in the evening, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s chief IAEA envoy, suggested his country was happy with a resolution that avoided direct mention of Security Council involvement should Iran backslide but refused to characterize developments as a “victory” over Washington.
“It’s always natural that there are differences of views on matters of international importance,” he told The Associated Press. “What is important here is that a chance has been given for the power of logic to prevail.”
He said Iran would not have tolerated any direct mention of Security Council action — and the implicit threat of sanctions — in any resolution.
“Those are red lines that are not going to be crossed by anyone,” he said, suggesting that Iran would have rethought its nuclear concessions, including opening its programs to intensive scrutiny and suspending uranium enrichment, had the resolution mentioned the Security Council.
A U.S. official who demanded anonymity said agreement was reached after days of negotiations between Washington, London, Berlin and Paris. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (news – web sites) talked with his British, German and French counterparts over modifications of the draft late into Monday.
The deep differences led Friday to an unprecedented clash between chief U.S. delegate Kenneth Brill and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, with Brill questioning ElBaradei’s credibility and suggesting he played down evidence that Iran had tried to build nuclear weapons over the past 18 years.
The dispute focused on a report by ElBaradei stating there was as yet “no evidence” of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.