Reuters, VIENNA, September 24 – The U.N. nuclear watchdog passed a resolution on Saturday requiring Iran to be reported to the Security Council over a failure to convince the agency its nuclear programme was entirely peaceful.
"The resolution was adopted," an IAEA spokeswoman told reporters.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) governing board approved it despite Iranian threats to begin enriching uranium if the U.S.-backed resolution, drafted by the EU’s three biggest powers, that could eventually lead to U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran was passed.
With 22 votes for the resolution, 12 abstentions and only one vote against, the outcome highlighted the split between rich Western nations and poorer developing nations led by Russia, China, South Africa, which disagree with Washington and Europe on how to deal with Iran.
In what EU diplomats said was a victory for Western efforts to ratchet up the pressure on Tehran, both China and Russia, which had strongly opposed the EU’s proposed resolution, abstained. Venezuela was the only country to vote against it.
India, which had opposed the EU resolution, voted for it.
Iran denies seeking atomic bombs and says its nuclear programme is only for generating electricity. However, it concealed its atomic fuel programme from the IAEA for 18 years.
Russia, which is building a $1 billion (563 million pounds) nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran and has much to gain from Iran’s plans to develop atomic energy, has long been an opponent of referring Iran’s programme to the Security Council.
China, which needs Iran’s vast energy resources for its own booming economy, also opposes the Western drive against Iran.
Both countries fear a U.N. referral will cause the standoff over Iran’s programme to escalate into an international crisis.
WATERED DOWN RESOLUTION
The EU resolution requires Tehran to be reported to the Security Council, but at an unspecified date — watering down an earlier demand from the Europeans for an immediate referral.
This means Iran would most likely not be referred to the Council until the IAEA board meets in November, diplomats say.
The resolution, which diplomats said was prepared in close consultation with Washington, says Iran’s "many failures and breaches" of its nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement "constitute non-compliance" with the pact.
It added there was an "absence of confidence" that Iran’s atomic programme was exclusively peaceful and this gave rise to questions "within the competence of the Security Council".
For two years, the EU’s three biggest powers — France, Britain and Germany — have tried to persuade Iran that it needed to abandon its enriched uranium fuel programme to convince the world that its atomic ambitions are peaceful.
Last month, the talks collapsed after Tehran resumed uranium processing and rejected an EU offer of economic and political incentives if it scrapped its uranium enrichment programme, prompting the EU trio to join Washington in calling for the case to be sent to the Security Council.
Tehran has threatened to retaliate.
On Friday, diplomats said the Iranian delegation had been showing some board members and IAEA general director, Mohamed ElBaradei, two unsigned letters informing the IAEA what would happen if the EU resolution is approved.
One letter said that Iran would begin enriching uranium, a process that produces fuel for atomic power plants or weapons, at an underground facility at Natanz. The second says Tehran would end short-notice inspections under a special NPT protocol.