France, Britain and Germany formally submitted a toughly-worded draft resolution to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Friday ... Reuters
By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA - The United States said on Saturday that Iran was "completely isolated" in what Washington says is Tehran's pursuit of an atom bomb, while talks at the U.N. atomic agency stalled over what to demand of Tehran.
France, Britain and Germany formally submitted a toughly-worded draft resolution to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Friday that calls on Tehran to immediately freeze its uranium enrichment program.
This is the most controversial part of Iran's program since enrichment can be used to develop nuclear material for weapons.
"The United States fully endorses the draft resolution. Iran remains completely isolated in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the draft resolution to be considered this morning makes that clear," U.S. Under Secretary of State John Bolton said.
The statement was read to reporters by the head of the U.S. delegation at this week's meeting of the U.N. agency in Vienna, Jackie Sanders. The resolution was to be debated Saturday.
Iran denies any plan to develop nuclear arms and insists its program is intended only to produce electricity. It says its enrichment facilities would be used only to make low-enriched fuel for power plants, not highly-enriched fuel for bombs.
This demand for the enrichment freeze has caused a split among the 35 members of the IAEA board of governors, some of which believe that it could set a bad precedent.
Brazil and South Africa also have enrichment programs and fear that someday they too could be told to freeze their commercial enrichment activities, diplomats said. They have the support of the large block of non-aligned states on the board.
Although the draft resolution has the backing of a majority of IAEA board members, the agency prefers to adopt all decisions unanimously by consensus, rather than by a vote. Negotiators from the EU three are currently meeting with non-aligned diplomats to persuade them to accept the draft text.
Although Washington appears satisfied with the draft text, Western diplomats said U.S. negotiators had to retreat somewhat from their demand that Iran be reported to the U.N. Security Council for hiding parts of its parts program for 18 years.
"We've had very constructive negotiations," Bolton said about the week-long talks, which diplomats close to them described as occasionally heated.
A Western diplomat familiar with U.S. thinking said he was confident the resolution, if approved, would lead to a Security Council referral and possibly economic sanctions in November.
"It looks like Iran's going to the Security Council," he said.
The IAEA has been investigating Iran's nuclear program for two years. Although it has found many concealed activities that could be used to develop weapons, it has found no "smoking gun" that would prove U.S. allegations of Iranian bomb plans.