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. IAEA adopts resolution on Iran's nuclear program
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 24, 2005
The United Nations atomic watchdog Saturday adopted by vote an EU proposal that sets Iran up for referral to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, a spokeswoman said, in a sharp escalation of the West's face-off with the Islamic Republic.

The vote was 22-1, with 12 abstentions, on the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters.

The resolution finds Iran in violation of international nuclear safeguards, but referral to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions, would come only after a report on Iran by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei, which he will probably make to the next board meeting in November.

The IAEA strives to find consensus on crucial issues but has voted in the past, most recently in 2003 to send North Korea to the Security Council for non-compliance with international nuclear safeguards.

Iran, which has maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful, pointed to the split vote as a sign the West had no mandate to act against its activities.

"For the first time in the history of the agency, the Vienna spirit of consensus is broken," Javad Vaeidi, a senior official on Iran's national security council and head of the delegation to the IAEA, told reporters.

After the vote, the United States, which has accused Tehran of trying to master the nuclear fuel cycle so it can develop weapons, stated that non-compliance by Iran requires a report to the Security Council.

"The nature of Iran's nuclear activities combined with its long history of concealment and deception gives rise to questions that fall within the competence of the UN Security Council," said Greg Schulte, US ambassador to the IAEA, told reporters.

The IAEA board meeting started over two hours late with Russia trying to get the EU to agree to amendments that would have eliminated the automatic requirement of referral to the Security Council.

But the amendments were not accepted, and the resolution was approved in the same form as proposed Friday by Britain.

The only vote against was Venezuela while Russia, which had expressed bitter opposition to the resolution, abstained.

India, a member of the non-aligned movement that had opposed the resolution, voted for it.

Iran has said it will submit a note in writing to the IAEA saying that it will begin to enrich uranium, the nuclear reactor fuel that can also be bomb material, and also cease applying a protocol for wider IAEA inspections if the resolution is adopted, a diplomat close to the IAEA said.

Iran's resumption last month of uranium conversion, a first step in making enriched uranium, set off a crisis in which the United States and the EU want to call in the international weight of the Security Council, which could impose trade sanctions although softer measures are at first expected.

However, Schulte said the West still hopes for a peaceful resolution.

"Our goal is a peaceful diplomatic settlement that benefits the Iranian people," he told reporters.

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