VIENNA, Austria – A 35-nation meeting of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency on Saturday demanded that Iran (search) suspend all aspects of uranium enrichment, setting an indirect November deadline for Tehran to heed its conditions.
A resolution approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (search) board of governors said it "considers it necessary" that Iran freeze all programs related to enrichment, a key process that can be used to make nuclear weapons.
The board also said it "strongly urges" Iran to meet all demands by the agency in its investigation of the country's nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activity, including unrestricted access to sites, information and personnel that can shed light on still unanswered questions on whether Tehran was interested in the atom for nuclear weapons (search).
Suggesting that the Islamic Republic could answer to the U.N. Security Council should it defy the demands, the resolution said the next board meeting in November "will decide whether or not further steps are appropriate" in ensuring Iran complies.
The Americans praised the text even before it was passed.
"Iran remains completely isolated in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the draft resolution ... makes that clear," U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in a statement read by Jackie Sanders, the chief U.S. delegate to the meeting.
Still the resolution left Iran wiggle room and raised the prospect of new confrontation with the United States when the agency's board of governors reconvene Nov. 25.
While demanding Iran suspend all uranium enrichment activities, the resolution also recognizes nations' right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy — which Iran says is what it wants enrichment for.
Iran's present suspension freeze falls short of international demands.
It says it is honoring a pledge not to put uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges, spin it and make enriched uranium. But the resolution calls for a stop as well to related activities, including a halt to making, assembling and testing centrifuges, and to producing uranium hexafluoride, the feed stock for enrichment.
It also expresses alarm at Iranian plans to convert more than 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride.
Iran is not prohibited from enrichment under its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It has for months faced international pressure to suspend such activities as a good-faith gesture, but the Western resolution goes further by actually demanding a stop to enrichment and related activities.