VIENNA, Austria – The United States accused Iran of trying to make nuclear arms, in harsh comments Friday at a U.N. atomic agency meeting that reflected the split between Washington and key European nations over how far to go in censuring Tehran for past activities.
Unable to bridge that rift, delegates at a board of governors’ meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency decided to adjourn until next week in hopes of finding a compromise.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the meeting would reconvene Wednesday, after adjourning later Friday following delegates’ speeches.
The break would be a chance for high-level negotiations to continue in the capitals of the 35 board members, she said.
The move followed a failure by IAEA delegates to reconcile U.S. wishes for strong censure of Iran’s past covert nuclear activities and European hopes of encouraging Tehran’s newfound openness by refraining from overtly harsh language or any formulation that would result in Security Council involvement.
Addressing delegates, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Brill assailed Iran for 18 years of “violations and lies,” including enriching uranium, processing small amounts of plutonium and other activities that Washington says point to a weapons agenda.
“Iran systematically and deliberately deceived the IAEA and the international community about these issues for year after year after year,” he said. The purpose, he said, was “the pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
Such conduct by Iran “constitutes noncompliance with its safeguards obligations,” Brill said, in language that indirectly accused Tehran of violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – an act that normally results in Security Council involvement.
The United States now wants a draft U.N. nuclear resolution condemning Iran for concealment # which could eventually bring sanctions # but Britain, France and Germany want a softer line.
Diplomats from both sides were at loggerheads over a text after talks late into Thursday in Vienna.
Other European states have joined Washington in refusing to back a revised French, German and British draft resolution for being too weak in its condemnation of Iran’s cover-up.
“The Americans are annoyed with the big three [France, Germany and Britain], the Europeans are annoyed with the big three and Tehran is annoyed with the big three,” a Western diplomat told Reuters before the IAEA board began its second day of closed-door meetings on Friday.
Several diplomats said the French, British and Germans had annoyed other Europeans on the IAEA board by monopolizing the drafting process and refusing to strengthen it to express views of European capitals who feel closer to Washington’s position.
“No one is happy with them,” another Western diplomat said.