By Louis Charbonneau and Francois Murphy
VIENNA - 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 program was
"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
India, which had opposed the EU resolution, voted for it.
Iran denies seeking atomic bombs and says its nuclear program is only for
generating electricity. However, it concealed its atomic fuel program from
the IAEA for 18 years.
Russia, which is building a $1 billion 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 program 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
program 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
program 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 program 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 program, 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.