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No Deadline Set for Iran to Comply

September 19, 2004|Sonya Yee | Times Staff Writer

VIENNA — The board of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog Saturday strongly urged Iran to heed repeated warnings that it halt its uranium enrichment program, but its resolution stopped short of setting a strict deadline.

After a contentious session, the 35 member countries of the International Atomic Energy Agency's governing group unanimously agreed on the resolution, which tells Iran to comply with requests for "confidence-building measures," namely, full suspension of uranium enrichment.

Last-minute changes were made to the resolution to reflect some countries' concerns that it would infringe on the right of nations to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.

The United States maintains that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and that the matter should be referred to the U.N. Security Council, where Iran could face sanctions. But an earlier U.S. demand for the resolution to set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iranian compliance did not find support with the other members. The approved resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany and backed by the United States, asks the agency to present a full and comprehensive report of Iran's nuclear activities and history of cooperation by the next board meeting in November.

The Europeans behind the resolution favor offering Iran economic incentives for cooperation rather than threatening referral to the Security Council.

Jackie Sanders, the head of the U.S. delegation, said the toned-down resolution would nevertheless lead to Iran's referral if it failed to comply with international demands.

"It sends an unmistakable signal to Iran that continuing its nuclear weapons program will bring it inevitably to the Security Council," she said.

Hossein Mousavian, head of the Iranian delegation, said Iran would cooperate with the IAEA, but insisted on the country's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. He said Iran would decide within a few days whether to suspend enrichment.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei welcomed the board's consensus after a week of disputes.

"It reflects the best tradition of this organization ... that on matters of international importance like our verification in Iran, the board stands united," he said.

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