Powers make "progress" on IAEA Iran resolution

VIENNA Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:26am EST

VIENNA (Reuters) - World powers are making progress in narrowing their differences on how to respond to a U.N. watchdog report that aired intelligence suggesting Iran has worked on designing a nuclear weapon, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

They said officials from the six big powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain -- were in intense negotiations on drafting a resolution on Iran for a November 17-18 board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But they said it was still uncertain whether a text that all six could agree on would be ready in time for the two-day meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board, in view of remaining divisions between the Western states and Russia and China.

"I'm certainly more optimistic than I was yesterday. Progress is being made," one diplomat said.

Another Western diplomat estimated there was "more than an even chance" of an agreement.

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 IAEA report, which lent independent weight to Western allegations, laid bare of a trove of intelligence suggesting it is seeking the capability to "weaponize" nuclear material.

The unprecedented document exposed divisions among the big powers, with Russia criticizing the report as politicized and Western states seizing on it to try and ratchet 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.

OBAMA-MEDVEDEV TALKS

Any board resolution would likely stop short of taking concrete action -- such as referring Iran once again to the United Nations Security Council -- in view of Russian and Chinese reluctance, diplomats said.

It is expected to express concern about Iran's nuclear work and call on the country to address issues raised in last week's report by the IAEA, the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear body, one of the Western diplomats said.

"I think we will get to a point where it (the text) is manageable to all of us," the diplomat said. Another Western envoy spoke of "good chances" an agreement would be reached.

The main goal of such a resolution would be to demonstrate a big power common front and warn Iran about the need to engage in good-faith talks about its nuclear program.

Iran, which says it is enriching uranium only for fuel for power plants and not nuclear weapons, condemned the IAEA's findings as "unbalanced" and "politically motivated" but has yet to offer detailed answers to the allegations.

Russia, which has significant trade ties with Iran, has been softer on Tehran than the United States and the European Union, and has worked with China to water down previous U.N. Security Council sanctions. China is a big importer of Iranian oil.

Moscow has said the IAEA report contained no new evidence and was being used to undercut efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the long-running nuclear dispute with Iran.

The United States and its allies have made clear their intention to tighten sanctions on Iran after the IAEA report.

Despite such differences, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev "reaffirmed our intention to work and shape a common response so we can move Iran to follow its international obligations when it comes to its nuclear program."

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
GuyFaulkes wrote:
Im not concerned about Iran having a bomb, they are an Islamic religious people and it is against thier principle to even contemplate the use of such a weapon – so if they are making one it is only for deterrence.

However I am affraid of the rhetoric coming out of Tel aviv and Washington, and comments by thier supporters that would contemplate the use of these weapons on Iran. Israel does not have the power to beat Iran, its only power comes from the Nukes, if Israel didn’t have them they would all be on ships to thier beloved New York at 5 am tomorrow morning, and in the History books they will look back at thier occupation as a complete hypocracy on all of the values the West proports to safeguard.

Nov 16, 2011 8:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus