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. Western powers may delay vote to haul Iran to UN Security Council
WASHINGTON (AFP) Sep 21, 2005
Western powers may consider delaying a vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency board to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program even though they have majority support, a US official said Wednesday.

"By our count we got the votes, it would be a majority vote," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said that at least 18 of the 35 members of the IAEA board of governors were for referral.

"But the question is do you do it now or do you work the diplomacy so that you tee it up so that when you finally take the next step in pushing the brinksmanship that you've got more people on your side," he said.

The Vienna meeting of the IAEA board of governors was adjourned until Thursday after the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan and Britain -- representing the European Union -- all spoke in favour of Iran's referral to the UN Security Council.

However, Iran and non-aligned nations which oppose referral postponed their remarks, forcing the adjournment, a Western diplomat said in Vienna.

The United States and the EU are trying to win a consensus at the IAEA board to take Iran to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions, but they are opposed by Russia, China and non-aligned states which defend Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

It is not immediately clear whether the prospective delay in voting was to buy time to convince Russia and China of the US-EU case.

Deputy US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters the United States was working with the EU to "build a broad consensus on achieving our common objectives, which may well include a referral, if not now, perhaps later."

In the end, he said, the move would "accomplish what we all want to see -- which is an Iran that is not thumbing its nose at the international community and engaging in the kind of confrontation and deception which is of growing concern to all of us."

Ereli said that in US discussions with other Security Council members, allies and members of the IAEA board, "what's clear to us is that there is a growing sense of concern about Iran's nuclear activities and about its failure to be responsive to the reports of and the findings" of the IAEA.

"That, I think there is a clear trend line," he said.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran since February 2003 on US charges that Tehran is using a peaceful civilian nuclear program to cover development of atomic weapons.

The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Western powers were also looking beyond the Security Council in dealing with Iran amid the lack of support in the council to taka action against the Islamic republic.

"If you go to the Security Council then what? Let's say the Security Council doesn't do anything, then people get so fed up. There are alternatives to the Security Council," he said.

"Other states or other groupings of states can do things but they are not going to do things if they haven't been been led to the conclusion that there is no other alternative," the official said.

The move against Iran came after it ended a full suspension of fuel cycle work last month and resumed uranium conversion, a precursor to enrichment and the potential production of nuclear weapons.

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