The International Atomic Energy Agency was expected to adopt by consensus a British-French-German resolution calling for the IAEA's 15-month-old investigation into Iran's nuclear activities to be stepped up and for Tehran to do more to help it complete the probe within a few months.
The tough resolution was tabled Thursday at an IAEA governors board meeting in Vienna, even though the IAEA admitted it had made a mistake in its investigation and after Iranian President Mohammad Khatami warned the Islamic republic could back away from voluntary commitments such as the suspension of uranium enrichment and allowing tougher inspections.
But Iran reacted mildly Thursday. Chief Iranian delegate Seyed Hossein Mussavian said Iran would continue to cooperate with the IAEA and hailed as a victory the fact that the IAEA had not heeded a US call to impose a deadline on Iran.
The United States claims Iran has a secret program to develop nuclear weapons and wants the IAEA to impose a cut-off date on its investigation in order to send the Iranian file to the UN Security Council, which could impose international sanctions on the Islamic Republic, diplomats said.
"The Americans were trying to put a deadline. In this draft we don't see a deadline. I consider this process a victory process for Iran," Mussavian told reporters.
But Washington said it was happy with the resolution. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "The United States has felt that it's important for the IAEA to continue its pressure on Iran, to continue its investigation, its inspections, to continue finding things out about this program."
Boucher also accused Iran of razing nuclear sites to hide banned nuclear activity.
"I can't give you any independent information, but commercial satellite photography shows the complete dismantling and the razing of a facility at Lavizan Shiyan (a Tehran suburb).
"And that's a site that was previously disclosed as a possible Iranian weapons of mass destruction-related site," he said.
A senior diplomat close to the IAEA told AFP the agency was interested in this site but had not yet been "invited" by Iranian authorities to visit it.
The IAEA admitted Thursday it had made a mistake in saying that Iran had failed to report the import of magnets for advanced P-2 centrifuges that can process uranium to bomb-grade, highly enriched levels.
References to this were taken out of the resolution, according to a copy of the text obtained by AFP.
But the resolution still says that Iran's reporting on the crucial P-2 centrifuge issue has "in some cases ... been incomplete and continues to lack the necessary clarity."
The resolution repeats a call by IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei "that it is essential for the integrity and credibility of the inspection process to bring these issues to a close within the next few months."
And it "deplores... that overall as indicated by the Director General's written and oral reports, Iran's cooperation has not been as full, timely and proactive as it should have been."
The resolution also kept in the clause Iran most objected to -- a call for it to stop tests in uranium conversion, a first step in the nuclear fuel cycle.
Mussavian told AFP after examining the resolution that "Iran will continue cooperation with IAEA."
He said: "Iran will be committed to (the nuclear) non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and there is no issue of withdrawal from the NPT."
"We will concentrate (focus) with the IAEA to resolve these two technical remaining issues which are P-2 and contamination (of equipment by highly enriched uranium particles)," he said.
"We hope this will be also resolved within a few months," Mussavian said.
Mussavian said Iran "will continue to cooperate with the IAEA also in the framework of the protocol 93 + 2," which is the additional protocol to the NPT that mandates tougher inspections.
But he said maintaining the suspension of uranium enrichment, which is outside the NPT, was a decision to be made in Tehran.