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. US claims broad support on Iran
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 16, 2005
The United States has "broad agreement" from both developed and developing countries that international pressure must be brought to bear on Iran to stop nuclear fuel work that could be weapons-related, a US spokesman said Friday.

"We're finding broad agreement throughout the international community that Iran should re-suspend its sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities and cooperate fully" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the spokesman, Matthew Boland, told reporters in Vienna.

The United States and the European Union want the IAEA to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions, if Tehran persists in uranium conversion -- a first step in making enriched uranium that can be fuel for nuclear power reactors or material for an atom bomb.

But Russia, China, and non-aligned states backing Iran's claim to peaceful nuclear technology under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) oppose approving referral when the IAEA board of governors begins meeting Monday in Vienna, diplomats said.

The IAEA board had August 11 called on Iran to stop nuclear fuel work in order to resume talks with EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany on guaranteeing its nuclear program is peaceful, as claimed by Tehran.

It also said Iran should do more to answer questions the IAEA still has in an investigation since February 2003 of the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States believes Tehran is using its civilian nuclear program to hide atomic weapons development and feels the time has come to make a stand on the issue.

Iran has refused to halt the fuel work but has promised a new proposal to resume the talks with the European trio.

Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to make the proposal Saturday at the United Nations in New York.

It will be for "international joint ventures in its nuclear programme as a means of providing an 'objective guarantee' that it cannot be diverted to weapons use," London's Financial Times newspaper said citing Iranian officials.

A senior Iranian official said: "Iran will suggest international co-operation for uranium enrichment and invite Europe, Russia, China and South Africa to joint ventures in which Iran keeps its nuclear fuel cycle while the international community can make sure there is no diversion."

European diplomats were sceptical, however, that their governments would accept a plan that lets Iran enrich uranium.

The European trio insist the fuel work be abandoned in order to guarantee nuclear weapons can not be made.

In Paris, French foreign ministry deputy spokesman Denis Simonneau said the the Europeans would judge Ahmadinejad's proposal "on its merits."

"Our goal is to continue dialogue. It is up to the Iranians to make sure that the conditions for this dialogue are met," he said.

Boland said the United States has "found broad agreement that Iran's actions to date have been unacceptable and that further international pressure must be placed on Iran. This broad agreement includes both developed and developing countries."

He did not specify that this support was among the IAEA's 35-nation board.

Boland said the board "must live up to its obligation to report to the UN Security Council Iran's history of safeguards breaches and failures" in honoring the requirements of the non-proliferation treaty.

Diplomats close to the IAEA said Iran looks set to avoid referral to the Council when the IAEA meets next week although this does not mean Tehran will be off the hook.

The diplomats said the European trio might instead propose setting a deadline for Iran to halt the fuel work, thus giving it one last chance, with another IAEA board meeting called within a few weeks.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has herself expressed caution about the timing, saying Wednesday: "If we get a referral on September 19th, that will be good, but I think the issue of a referral is something that we'll be working (on) for a while."

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