Diplomats: Iran ends seat bid on decision-making International Atomic Energy Agency board

VIENNA (AP) — Iran on Thursday withdrew its bid at the last minute for a seat on the decision-making board of the same U.N. nuclear agency probing its activities for evidence that Tehran may be interested in making atomic weapons, officials said.

With three countries competing for two regional seats, an Arab diplomat said Tehran pulled out "for reasons of solidarity" with the two other candidates, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, shortly before a 151-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency took up the issue.

But a Western diplomat from a country critical of Iran's refusal to heed U.N. Security Council demands to curb its nuclear activities said Tehran likely gave up the attempt to sit on the 35-nation IAEA board because it lacked support.

Although Iran says its nuclear agencies are purely peaceful, many IAEA member countries fear it harbors aspirations to make nuclear weapons and would be expected to vote against its candidacy. With many nonaligned nations, Iran's traditional supporters from the Arab camp, they also were considered more likely to support the two candidate countries from their own ranks.—

While Iran has sought such a position previously, it had always withdrawn its candidates well before the 151 members of the International Atomic Energy Agency approve members for the agency's 35-nation board. This time, however, Iran kept its hat in the ring until the assembly postponed consideration of the item to give the three countries a chance to agree on which would bid for the two seats.

A seat for Iran would have given it a stronger lobbying platform as well as voting rights on resolutions of the kind that sent Tehran's file to the Security Council.

Iran insists it does not seek atomic weapons but has been under IAEA investigation since revelations of secret nuclear activities eight years ago. It is under four sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to stop uranium enrichment — a pathway both to nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material — and other actions that have raised concerns about its ultimate goals.

The IAEA board peruses Iran's activities four times a year and set into motion U.N. Security Council involvement — and ultimately U.N. sanctions — by referring Tehran to the council for its nuclear defiance four years ago.

Eleven seats from different regions will be decided Thursday.