At talks this week in Vienna, the US is pushing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to adopt a resolution that would give Iran a deadline of October 31 to satisfy the concerns of the UN nuclear watchdog or be referred to the UN Security Council. Financial Times
By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Daniel Dombey in Brussels
The US is drawing up proposals for United Nations sanctions against Iran aimed at stopping its suspected nuclear weapons programme, according to US and European officials.
At talks this week in Vienna, the US is pushing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to adopt a resolution that would give Iran a deadline of October 31 to satisfy the concerns of the UN nuclear watchdog or be referred to the UN Security Council.
European negotiators are resisting referral and want to give the process more time. EU officials said talk of sanctions was premature.
A US official and European diplomats said the US proposals, which have been discussed but not formally presented, envisage as a first step a condemnation and warning by the Security Council president.
Iran would be given more time to comply or face nuclear-related sanctions that would, for example, break off Russia's co-operation in building a civilian nuclear power plant at Bushehr in southern Iran. Broader economic sanctions could follow.
The US already has a trade embargo of its own against Iran, but has repeatedly failed to persuade the European Union to drop its policy of engagement and follow the US line of containment and isolation.
In private, US officials express frustration with the European approach. One official said the IAEA board meeting was likely to "kick the can down the road" even though the EU agreed with the US that Iran intended to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, appeared to be straddling both positions yesterday. He said his agency had no proof of a weapons programme in Iran, nor of undeclared uranium enrichment.
"But are we in a position to say that everything is peaceful? Obviously we are not at this stage," he added.
The EU3 - Britain, France and Germany - want Iran to return to the commitment it made last year to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Bush administration hardliners want Iran to give up its entire nuclear programme. Iran denies having a weapons programme but has threatened to resume its uranium enrichment activities. It has also proposed to the EU a comprehensive, 10-point deal that would also cover weapons of mass destruction, al-Qaeda suspects detained in Iran, human rights and regional security.
Diplomats said such a package would have to involve the US, which has refused to deal directly with Tehran for over a year.
EU officials maintain that the 25-member bloc, which will next discuss the issue at an October meeting, is nowhere near sanctions.
The Non-Proliferation Policy Education Center, headed by Henry Sokolski, a former US official, said the US government should seek to limit the potential harm Iran might do if it gained nuclear weapons.