Published September 11, 2004
BERLIN – Europe's major powers have agreed to set a November deadline on Iran (search) to meet demands meant to resolve concerns that it is secretly trying to make nuclear weapons, in a confidential document made available Saturday to The Associated Press.
The draft resolution was prepared by France, Germany and Britain for Monday's start of a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search), the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Tehran is trying build the nuclear bomb.
Up to now, the European countries have resisted U.S. attempts to have Iran hauled before the Security Council (search) or even hint on a date for such possible action.
Iran says its nuclear program is solely for energy production.
The draft says Iran must suspend all activities related to nuclear enrichment -- including manufacturing of centrifuges -- and must meet all requirements posed by the IAEA in its probe into Iran's nuclear activities before IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei reports to the board again in November.
On the basis of ElBaradei's report, the board will "probably" make a "definite determination on whether or not further steps are required," the draft said.
"This is a 'trigger' that can be pulled if the November board deems it necessary," said one diplomat.
While the last board meeting in June censured Iran for past cover-ups and warned it has little time left to disprove it has a nuclear weapons program, it didn't impose a deadline or even indirectly threaten sanctions.
But since then, Iran's earlier commitments to stop some uranium enrichment and related activities have eroded -- alienating the three European nations.
Enriched uranium can be used to generate electricity or make nuclear weapons. Iran last year agreed to freeze enrichment programs but has since resumed testing, assembling and making centrifuges, a key component of such activities. Last week, it confirmed an IAEA report that it planned to convert more than 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the gas put into centrifuges for enrichment.
Iran's original suspension pledge came in a deal with Britain, Germany and France but fell short of European demands that Tehran scrap enrichment.
Iran is not obliged to halt enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but Tehran has been under international pressure for more than a year to fully renounce enrichment to counterbalance suspicions generated by nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activities that came to light only two years ago.
On Tuesday, it offered to re-impose a partial freeze on some of those activities, in an apparent move to deflect growing international exasperation ahead of Monday's meeting.
But diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP they had not heard of a concrete agreement with the IAEA on that issue by Saturday. The text of the draft had no reference to any commitment by Tehran to re-impose its enrichment freeze.
The draft has some positive language. It notes "the general positive ... Iranian cooperation" with the IAEA, while asserting that "the process of providing information needs, in certain instances, to be accelerated."
But it notes "with serious concern ... that Iran has not heeded repeated calls from the board to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."
It "deeply regrets" that Iran's partial freeze of enrichment and related programs falls "significantly short" of what the IAEA wants "and also that Iran has since reversed some of those decisions."
The draft expresses concern about Iran's plans to convert its raw uranium into hexafluoride. And it "urges Iran to immediately and verifiably to suspend all enrichment-related activities, notably the manufacture of centrifuge components, the assembly and testing of centrifuges, and the production of feed material."
It asks ElBaradei to present a comprehensive review of his two-year investigation into Iran's nuclear programs, a record of Tehran's cooperation and a judgment on Iran's willingness to fully suspend "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."