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. US and Europe draw closer on setting a deadline of Iran nuclear program
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 12, 2004
The United States and Europe appeared closer to agreement ahead of a meeting Monday of the UN nuclear watchdog over setting a deadline for Iran to allay suspicions it is secretly making atomic weapons, but Tehran insisted on its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology.

Britain, France and Germany are ready to set a November deadline for Iran to respond to concern about its nuclear program, in a draft resolution that brings the so-called Euro 3 closer to the US hard line, diplomats told AFP Saturday.

But differences remain for the meeting in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors.

"We're still in negotiations with the Europeans. The jury is still out," a US official said, about talks taking place mainly by telephone.

Another US official said the United States is "very pleased with the negotiating positions of our European friends" and thought the talks were "moving in our direction".

The first official said the resolution "needs to be a little clearer on what Iran needs to do" as such deadlines have in the past failed to force Iran to provide full information.

The resolution does not oblige the IAEA to take any specific action, falling short of US demands for a so-called "trigger mechanism" that would oblige the agency to take Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions if certain conditions were not met, a diplomat familiar with the text told AFP.

"The trigger is not yet mounted on the gun," the US official said.

"We think it's imperative to break the cycle" of Iran's delaying full disclosure of its nuclear program and honoring promises to suspend the nuclear fuel cycle, the official said.

"The further down the road we kick the can (on this issue), the longer the Iranian weapons program will have to continue before anybody does anything about it," the US official said.

Bolton's chief of staff Fred Fleitz is to attend the IAEA meeting this week, the official said.

The United States has said urgent action is needed since Iran has announced its intention to convert 37 tons of mineral uranium into a gas that is the feed for enriching uranium.

Uranium can be enriched through centrifuges into a highly refined form that can be used as fuel for civilian reactors or to make atomic bombs.

Iran said Sunday it would not accept any limitations on its right to master "peaceful" nuclear technology.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also said the Islamic republic's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had issued an edict banning the use of nuclear weapons, pledging that nobody in Iran was seeking the bomb.

"If the issue is that we cannot master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, that is out of the question because we have already reached that point," Asefi said.

"Iran's dossier will not be sent to the UN Security Council because there is no reason for it," he said.

The Euro 3 draft resolution calls on IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei to file an overall report before the next board meeting in November on his investigation that began in February 2003 into an Iranian program which the United States claims hides the development of nuclear weapons.

The draft says the board would in November make a "definite determination on whether or not further steps are required," a diplomat close to the IAEA told AFP.

ElBaradei has filed six written reports so far and Western diplomats have expressed concern that people are forgetting that Iran was last year found guilty of violations of nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards for hiding sensitive nuclear activities for 18 years.

The Euro 3 had previously resisted setting any time limit on their policy of constructive engagement to get Iran to cooperate in the investigation.

But Iran has since reaching an agreement last October with the Euro 3 not to enrich uranium bickered over whether this extended to activities short of actual enrichment and backtracked on some promises made, such as to suspend manufacturing the centrifuges that do the enrichment.

The draft resolution does call on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment related activities, diplomats said.

This fits the US demand for Iran to suspend the full nuclear fuel cycle.

The NPT does not bar states from enriching uranium but one diplomat said Iran must be stopped "from heading towards what would be a breakout capability" to make nuclear weapons.

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