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. UN nuclear conference fails to make headway over Iranian objections
VIENNA, May 3 (AFP) May 03, 2007
Iran's objections to a call for full compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty foiled efforts Thursday to kickstart a stalled conference on improving the pact.

Conference chairman, Japanese Ambassador Yukiya Amano, held a brief session but only to renew a suspension on proceedings aimed at finding a way to convince Iran to back down from its objection.

The scheduled two-week meeting in Vienna officially started on Monday.

Amano put off the next plenary session until Friday and said he would continue informal talks to break the impasse.

Iran, at odds with the international community over its nuclear program, is isolated here as both non-aligned states and Western powers want the conference to go ahead.

However, a consensus on the agenda from the 130 states attending the conference on the 189-member NPT is needed.

"Under these circumstances, I intend to continue with my informal consultations," Amano said, adding that it was "important for adoption of an agenda at an appropriate time as soon as possible."

Amano later told AFP that the situation was "quite frustrating."

Diplomats are concerned that the Vienna meeting could fail to make progress towards fixing the non-proliferation treaty due to the same procedural wrangling that marred the last review conference in New York in May 2005.

Several diplomats said there was nothing exceptional about calling for compliance with the NPT at a conference aimed at reinforcing the treaty.

But Iran feels it is being singled out as it is currently defying UN Security Council calls for it to suspend uraniuam enrichment and is under limited sanctions.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons but Tehran insists that it wants only to produce energy for a growing population.

The Vienna meeting is the first of a series of preparatory conferences ahead of the next general NPT review in 2010. The landmark 1970 treaty remains the main legal barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons.

One diplomat said the deadlock in Vienna was a sign of the "polarization of views" in forums worldwide due to the confrontation with Iran.

Another diplomat said it was not clear if Iran was using its its agenda objection "to avoid the whole thing and not to go into substantive discussion."

Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh has told reporters he might be open to a change in wording in the disputed agenda item which says measures should be found "reaffirming the need for full compliance with the treaty."

The wording should be changed to "the need for full compliance with all provisions of the treaty," Soltanieh said, indicating that this would cover the NPT's call on nuclear weapons states to disarm and not just stress non-proliferation.

But Amano said he did not think the carefully crafted agenda would win a consensus if it were changed.

"I don't say it's the best but it's the only viable option," Amano said.

Soltanieh said it was for others to show a willingness to compromise.

A non-aligned diplomat said "no one is really happy with the agenda" but added that a change at this late stage would open it to debate from other states "and the whole thing would unravel".

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