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. European states and US agree text on Iran nuclear program
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 17, 2004
The United States bowed to pressure from Europe by dropping an ultimatum over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, opening the way to set a deadline for a UN review of Tehran's atomic ambitions, diplomats said Friday.

But the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency postponed Friday discussing Iran's nuclear program as member states were bickering over the US-European compromise resolution, an IAEA spokesman said.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said however he expected the resolution to be put forward later Friday and adopted by consensus at a special session of the agency's 35-nation board of governors on Saturday.

"I think everybody's making an effort to reach a consensus," ElBaradei told reporters, adding that "on issues like this the board and the international community has to be fully united."

Meanwhile, ElBaradei said there was no sign of nuclear activity at the Parchin military site in Iran which US officials say should be investigated.

A senior US official has told AFP the United States was concerned about high-explosives testing in Parchin that may "amount to (nuclear) weapons intent".

But ElBaradei retorted that the IAEA did not like "other people second-guessing our conclusions nor are we planning to outsource our investigation."

The United States claims Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

It wanted to set an October 31 deadline for Tehran to fully suspend uranium enrichment and report on its other activities to the IAEA and for Iran to be automatically taken to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions if it failed to do this.

But in a compromise, Washington and the so-called Euro 3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- set a November 25 deadline for a full review of Iran's nuclear program and called on Tehran to "immediately" suspend all uranium enrichment activities, with this also being reviewed in November.

But no specific IAEA action was required, according to a copy of a draft resolution obtained by AFP.

Uranium can be enriched to make fuel for civilian reactors but also the explosive core for atomic bombs.

Non-aligned nations, as well as Russia and China, apparently feel the wording is still too tough, and want to avoid making uranium enrichment, which is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) something for which Iran can be sanctioned.

Iranian delegation chief Hossein Mousavian said Iran would decide within two or three days and based on its "national interests," whether to respect the IAEA call to fully suspend uranium enrichment or to resume this key part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

In Tehran, powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that if the IAEA finalized a resolution giving a deadline for Iran to stop its activities, "Iran has the right to take the issue to court in The Hague," referring to the International Court of Justice.

Iran suspended uranium enrichment in October 2003 as a confidence-building measure but has continued support activities such as building the centrifuges that refine the uranium.

It recently alarmed the United States by saying that it would be carrying out the first stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, making the uranium gas that is the feed for centrifuges.

The United States wants to put an end to an IAEA investigation that began in February 2003.

It feels Iran has been buying time through extending the diplomatic process in order to push ahead with a secret weapons program.

A European diplomat said the Euro 3, which support constructive engagement with Iran, share US concern on Tehran's program, but felt that any threat of a crackdown should be "implicit. The Americans had wanted it to be explicit."

A Western diplomat close to the talks in Vienna said that while the United States did bow to demands from the Euro 3 to drop the ultimatum, "the language is still pretty tough.

"There are the equivalent of two strong deadlines in the text."

One is the call to immediately suspend uranium enrichment.

The other is that the draft says it is "imperative" for Iran to clear up "outstanding issues" with the IAEA "before the board's (next meeting on) 25 November."

These include "the sources and reasons for enriched uranium contamination and the import, manufacture and use of centrifuges" in order for ElBaradei to file a comprehensive report.

The draft says the IAEA board of governors will decide in November "whether or not further steps are appropriate," which could still mean going to the Security Council.

ElBaradei said it was an "open question" whether he could wrap up the investigation of Iran by November since he needs cooperation from "other countries that have provided equipment" to Tehran.

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