May 26, 2013
Powers close to deal on IAEA Iran resolution
World powers look set to overcome their differences and agree on a UN atomic agency resolution aimed at putting diplomatic pressure on Iran to address mounting fears about its nuclear programme, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
The fact that the six major powers seem close to an agreement on a joint text will be welcomed in the West after a UN nuclear report last week exposed divisions with Russia on how to best handle the long-running dispute with Tehran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, which gave independent credibility to Western allegations, set out a mass of intelligence suggesting Iran was seeking the capability to adapt nuclear material for use in weaponry.
The proposed resolution would express concern about Iran's atomic activities and call on the Islamic state to resolve issues raised by the UN agency, asking IAEA chief Yukiya Amano to report back to the next board meeting in March.
It is expected to be formally submitted on Thursday at the start of a two-day meeting of the 35-nation governing board of the IAEA, the Vienna-based UN nuclear body. If the big powers are behind it, its adoption is virtually guaranteed.
"The result that we are looking for is one that demonstrates to Iran very clearly ... the international community's resolve as well as its very serious concerns about Iran's nuclear programme," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.
But the draft board text -- expected to be co-sponsored by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- would stop short of taking concrete actions such as reporting Iran once again to the UN Security Council.
"We are almost there," one Western envoy said, echoing the views of others who suggested it was a question of one capital confirming the agreement before it could be finalised. "Very close," another diplomat said.
There has been concern that if the powers cannot close ranks on isolating Iran to nudge it into serious negotiations, then Israel, which feels endangered by the nuclear aspirations of its arch-enemy, will attack it.
The unprecedented IAEA document revealed splits among the big powers. Russia criticised the report as politicised, while Western states seized on it to try to step up pressure on Tehran in the form of harsher economic sanctions.
Western countries faced a dilemma ahead of this week's IAEA governors meeting: press for a strongly worded resolution and risk Russian and Chinese opposition, or accept a weaker text in order to preserve big-power unity.