VIENNA, Austria – Resolving intense differences, the United States and key European nations on Tuesday agreed to praise Iran for opening much of its nuclear program to outside inspection while censuring Tehran for continued secrecy in some areas.
Both the Americans and Europeans accepted a draft resolution prepared for a high-level conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) after days of grueling negotiations aimed at finding the proper mix of praise and criticism.
The United States insists Iran is interested in making nuclear weapons. It wanted the meeting to condemn Iran for not fully living up to pledges to reveal all past and present nuclear activities and keep options open for future involvement by the U.N. Security Council.
France, Germany and Britain, however, wanted to focus on Iranian cooperation with the IAEA that began after the discovery last year that Tehran had plans to enrich uranium and secretly conducted other tests with possible weapons applications over nearly two decades.
The text still must be accepted by all 35 nations of the IAEA board of governors. Still, with the trans-Atlantic rift resolved, the greatest hurdle on agreement on Iran appeared to be out of the way.
The consensus text, made available to The Associated Press, criticizes Iran for not fully living up to its pledge to be completely open about past and present nuclear activities.
It "notes with the most serious concern that ... (past) declarations made by Iran ... did not amount to the correct, complete and final picture of Iran's past and present nuclear program."
The text also slams Iran for "failing to resolve all questions" about uranium enrichment, which can be used to make weapons, saying it "deplores" this lapse.
But it praises Iran for signing an agreement throwing open its nuclear programs to full and pervasive IAEA perusal and "recognizes" Iran's cooperation with agency investigations, even while calling on Iran to "intensify its cooperation."
The rift over Iran had led to unusual strains between Washington and its key European allies, after U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton complained in a letter sent to the French, German and British governments that their stance was hurting the common effort to get Iran to comply with its promises for full nuclear disclosure, diplomats told The Associated Press.
"That, of course resulted in some pretty harsh words in reply," to Washington, a senior European diplomat told the AP.
Besides Iran, Libya is also on the agenda, with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (search) describing both nations as violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
But with Libya acting on pledges made last year to scrap its programs for weapons of mass destruction, the focus at the meeting was on Iran.
In an IAEA report last month, Tehran was accused of continuing to hide evidence of nuclear experiments, leaving it to agency inspectors to unearth them. The dossier dealt Iran a setback in its efforts to convince the world that its nuclear program is peaceful and that it is fully cooperating with the U.N. agency.
The report mentioned finds of traces of polonium, a radioactive element that can be used in nuclear weapons and expressed concerns with the discovery of a previously undisclosed advanced P-2 uranium centrifuge system — a finding that the U.S. administration said raises "serious concerns" about Tehran's intentions.
Iran has insisted its interest in uranium enrichment is only geared at generating power and not to arm warheads. To show good will, it has suspended its enrichment program and has also allowed IAEA inspectors broad access to its nuclear programs.
While praising Tehran for some cooperation, ElBaradei said he was "seriously concerned" about Iran's refusal to declare plans and parts for the P-2 enrichment system, calling it a "setback to Iran's stated policy of transparency."
In contrast to the mixed review of Iran, a draft resolution on Libya is generally complimentary.
The draft, which also was provided to the AP, expresses "deep satisfaction," with Tripoli's openness, "welcomes the active cooperation," exhibited by Libya, and "congratulates" it for accepting full and intrusive IAEA inspections.
"There is no case to keep Libya on the agenda," Chief Libyan delegate Giuma Ferjani told the AP. Libya was scheduled to sign an agreement with the agency on Wednesday, opening its nuclear program to full IAEA perusal.
Iran, too, insists it wants its nuclear dossier closed — something ElBaradei has said would not happen until all suspicions about past experiments are dispelled and future openness is assured.