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EU and U.S.: Iran's IAEA deal may be recipe for delay

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran’s nuclear transparency deal with U.N. inspectors could be a recipe for delay and the lack of any provision for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment is unacceptable, the United States and EU powers said on Wednesday.

Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ambassador, briefs the media during a board of governors meeting in Vienna September 12, 2007. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

They spoke at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board where tensions flared between Western powers on one side, and IAEA officials and developing nations on the other over the value of Iran’s cooperation pledge.

Washington is concerned the Tehran-IAEA deal might stymie its attempt to intensify United Nations sanctions if Iran did not rein in uranium enrichment work. The U.S. envoy said support from the IAEA board was “critical”.

“This means that the U.N. Security Council needs the active support of the IAEA board of governors for ... a new sanctions resolution due to Iran’s failure to suspend enrichment,” U.S. Ambassador Gregory Schulte said.

Iran’s chief delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh repeated a warning by Non-Aligned Movement nations on Tuesday that any “interference” could wreck the cooperation pact.

“Interference in the agency’s technical...management or engagement of other politically and security-oriented organs shall impede seriously the new constructive process and might even destroy the trend,” he told the U.N. watchdog’s governors.

After a statement on Tuesday by the 27-nation European Union that declined to endorse the IAEA plan, IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei walked out of the session, diplomats said.

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ElBaradei denied on Wednesday being unhappy with the EU line. But he appealed for unstinting international support and stressed Iran would still have to shelve enrichment and grant wider inspections even after resolving old questions.

“CANNOT AFFORD TO FAIL,” ELBARADEI SAYS

“This issue is very complex and linked to security in the Middle East region which is more than messy right now ... I call on (all) to try to help us find a credible..., peaceful solution through verification. I don’t think we can afford to fail.”

The August 21 “work plan” commits Iran to answer five-year-old IAEA questions one by one over a rough timeline of a few months, while leaving untouched Tehran’s expanding enrichment activity.

The West fears Iran wants to make nuclear bombs while Tehran insists its program is aimed solely at generating electricity.

Germany, France and Britain, among six world powers who have sponsored two sets of limited U.N. sanctions against Iran, cast serious doubt on the transparency arrangements.

“We are ... concerned by the sequential nature of the work plan as it may possibly be used to delay the clarification of the outstanding questions,” said German Ambassador Klaus Peter Gottwald, speaking on behalf of the trio.

He said an August 30 report by ElBaradei left no doubt Iran was trying to crank up enrichment in its underground Natanz plant. “This is not acceptable and needs to be considered in the (U.N.) Security Council...,” he said.

Western leaders believe the plan buys time for Iran to achieve “industrial” enrichment capacity without facing biting economic penalties, which Russia and China are blocking as long as the cooperation pact moves forward.

Gottwald said the EU remained open to negotiations on trade benefits for Iran if it shelved enrichment activity first. Iran has rejected that precondition as undermining its sovereignty.

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