VIENNA, Austria – The U.N. atomic agency board on Friday gave Iran until the end of October to disprove suspicions about its nuclear program, setting the stage for possible U.N. Security Council action if it doesn't comply.
Iran's delegation walked out of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (search) board of governors meeting in protest after a resolution containing the deadline passed. Iranian officials had repeatedly warned that imposing a deadline would aggravate nuclear tensions.
"We reject in the strongest terms this resolution," chief Iranian delegate Ali Akbar Salehi (search) said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately the sponsors of the draft reacted in total disregard for principles of multilateralism and did not entertain our amendments."
The resolution, submitted by Australia, Canada and Japan, calls on Iran to "provide accelerated cooperation" with agency efforts to clear up Tehran's nuclear question marks.
The board approved the resolution without a vote, diplomats said. But the measure had the support of the United States, and more than 20 members of the 35-nation board had indicated they would vote in favor.
Salehi said the resolution reflected territorial designs on the part of the United States.
"At present, nothing pervades their appetite for vengeance short of confrontation and war," his statement said. "It is no secret that the current U.S. administration, or at least its influential circle, entertains the idea of invasion of yet another territory, as they aim to re-engineer and re-shape the entire Middle East region."
The resolution urged Iran to "ensure there are no further failures" in reporting obligations and called on it to "suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material" into a facility where IAEA inspectors found traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium.
The resolution did not threaten any consequences, but diplomats at the meeting said Security Council involvement appeared likely if the next board meeting in November finds the Iranians are not cooperating. The Security Council could call for sanctions if it finds Iran is violating the resolution.
The United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of working on a secret nuclear weapons program and violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (search). They had pushed for a resolution declaring Iran in noncompliance with the treaty but didn't have enough backing.
In Iran, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani (search) warned the agency against imposing any "unjust" decisions against the country's nuclear program, saying it could backfire.
"Honestly, what is happening in Vienna is a disgrace for the developed countries and international forums," he told worshippers during a Friday prayer service at a Tehran University mosque. Rafsanjani now heads the hard-line Expediency Council that advises Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search).
Among the IAEA's key concerns, spelled out in a report to the board, was that traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium were found at an Iranian nuclear facility in southern Natanz. The report also said Iran conducted tests that made little sense unless the country was pursuing nuclear weapons.
Tehran insists its nuclear programs are for generating electricity and claims its equipment was "contaminated" with enriched uranium by a previous owner.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei (search) toured Iran's nuclear facilities in February, including the incomplete plant in Natanz, about 300 miles south of Tehran. He was said to be dismayed by the advanced stage of a project using hundreds of centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Conference delegates had spent most of their time since Monday debating the Iran resolution that passed. Tehran warned that too many demands could hurt chances of increased cooperation with the IAEA, while the United States and its allies were pushing for a resolution with more power.
The resolution said Iran should "provide accelerated cooperation and full transparency" to allow the IAEA to reassure its members that Tehran's nuclear programs are for peaceful purposes.
It also urged Tehran to:
—Ensure there are no further failures to report material, facilities and activities that Iran is obliged to report to the IAEA.
—Suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including those at Natanz.
—Urgently "remedy all failures identified by the agency" by fully declaring all of its material and components used to enrich uranium and granting unrestricted access to agency inspectors.