Europe's big three to push for cooperation with Iran over nuclear program
VIENNA (AFP) Jun 06, 2004
Europe's big three -- Britain, France and Germany -- are not ready to break off cooperation with Iran in uncovering its nuclear secrets despite damning new revelations from the UN nuclear watchdog, diplomats said over the weekend.

The Euro-3 told a meeting of European Union states in Vienna Friday that would present a draft resolution when the International Atomic Energy Agency meets in the Austrian capital on June 14 urging Iran to answer all the IAEA's remaining questions about alleged weapons-related activities, according to diplomats.

The resolution "will be quite factual and reflect the IAEA report (on Iran's nuclear program) but not pass judgement on Iran," a Western diplomat who asked not to be named said.

The United States accuses Iran of hiding a program to develop nuclear weapons but is not expected to push for a tough resolution.

Washington has called for the IAEA, which has been investigating the Iranian program since February 2003, to refer the Islamic Republic to the UN Security Council for possible international sanctions.

But Washington does not have support at the IAEA for its hardline stance and is also hampered by the situation in Iraq, where it needs Iran's backing to not further inflame the Shiite population.

Washington accused Iran last week of continuing to hide clandestine nuclear activities, after an IAEA report said agency inspectors had found more traces in Iran of highly enriched uranium that could be bomb-grade.

This cast serious doubt on Iran's claim that the contamination came from imported equipment rather than uranium it had introduced or tried to make.

Iran insisted Sunday it had given a complete explanation of the contamination and urged the IAEA to focus its search on a "third country," apparently a reference to Pakistan.

The IAEA also reported that Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes, has admitted to importing parts for sophisticated P-2 centrifuges for enriching uranium, going back on claims that it had manufactured the parts domestically.

Highly-enriched uranium is made by centrifuges and can be fuel for nuclear reactors or the explosive in an atom bomb.

US ambassador to the IAEA Kenneth Brill told reporters that Iran's refusal to fully cooperate with the agency "fits a long-term pattern of denial and deception that can only be designed to mask Iran's military nuclear program."

"Even a disinterested observer must now ask, what is it that the Iranians are so intent on hiding," Brill said.

The EU-3 had in October 2003 struck an agreement with Iran to work with the IAEA, including building confidence with a voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment. The Europeans are still holding to this line despite Iran's failure to halt all enrichment-related activities and failure to fully disclose its nuclear program.

The Western diplomat said the EU-3 had told their European colleagues on Friday that "maybe there are some worrisome things in the IAEA report. It is clear the Iranian file can not be closed.

"But a new resolution should be designed to move things along, rather than to condemn Iran," the diplomat said.

A tough US-inspired IAEA resolution in March on Iran's omitting to report its work into P-2 centrigues had led Iran to delay crucial agency investigations, a delay that makes it difficult for the IAEA to draw conclusions this June.

Diplomats said the EU-3 would avoid harsh wording for the meeting by IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.

"I don't think they will use strong language. There will be some measure of pressure but also encouragement to cooperate," another Western diplomat said.

"The resolution will be asking Iran to be more pro-active in cooperation," the diplomat said.

The United States clearly expects more revelations to come forth of Iran hiding weapons development, diplomats said.

This could mean that the showdown over Iran at the IAEA may only be on hold until after the US presidential election in November, they added.