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Middle East

Western powers avoid resolution against Iran at IAEA board - diplomats

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Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office building, housing IAEA headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/Files

VIENNA/PARIS, June 4 (Reuters) - Britain, France, Germany and the United States will not push for a resolution against Iran at next week's meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog's board despite Tehran's failure to explain uranium traces found at three sites, diplomats said on Friday.

A resolution could have prompted an escalation between Tehran and the West that would have jeopardised talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal taking place in Vienna, where the atomic watchdog is also based. read more

At the last quarterly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors, the three European powers, with U.S. backing, prepared a draft resolution criticising Iran but did not formally submit it as IAEA chief Rafael Grossi announced new talks. read more

Those talks - aimed at breathing new life into efforts to get Iran to explain the origin of the traces, which are believed to be linked to activities long predating the deal - failed to produce new explanations, the IAEA reported on Monday. That raised the question of whether the resolution would be revived.

"The May 31 report can't be ignored just because the JCPOA talks are ongoing, but a resolution is not likely now," one diplomat said, referring to the 2015 deal by its official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Five other diplomats said there would not be a resolution but simply statements by countries on the board.

"There need to be strong statements," said one diplomat from a country that backed a resolution at the last board meeting. "They (Iran) have obligations and they need to fulfil them."

It remains unclear whether a resolution would have had the necessary support to be adopted by the board, the IAEA's main decision-making body that meets more than once a year.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on both countries returning to full compliance with the deal will resume next week, with an election on June 18 likely to usher in a more hard-line Iranian president.

"No progress has been made in the dialogue between Iran and the agency with respect to providing substantiated answers to the IAEA's questions," a French foreign ministry spokeswoman said, expressing "great concern" at the IAEA's report on Monday.

"We strongly urge Iran to provide such answers as swiftly as possible," she added.

Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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