Thirty-five nations agreed Wednesday to deny Iran's request for technical help in building a plutonium-producing reactor - at least for now - but left room for Teheran to renew its request, diplomats said.
Two diplomats said a committee of the International Atomic Energy Agency would forward a summary of its three days of deliberations on hundreds of requests for technical aid from member countries to Thursday's board meeting noting that "no decision was taken" on Teheran's call for aid for its Arak reactor.
The two diplomats - from countries on opposing sides of the issue - had different interpretations of the decision, reflecting the depth of the dispute. They both demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.
A European diplomat said the tentative agreement effectively meant that Iran's request was turned down. Another diplomat, from a developing nation, said it meant that the issue remained on the table and could be revisited at a future meeting of the IAEA technical aid committee.
Denying Iran help with Arak - where it is seeking agency assistance to make sure the reactor is environmentally safe - would do little to slow construction of that facility or affect Teheran's other potential avenue to weapons production - uranium enrichment. Still, it would maintain at least symbolic pressure, even with a Security Council deadlock over how to sanction Teheran for its nuclear defiance.
Chief US delegate Gregory L. Schulte described Arak as being "capable of producing plutonium for one or more nuclear weapons each year" once completed, likely in the next decade.
"Given past board decisions, continued questions about Iran's nuclear program, and the risk of plutonium being diverted to use in a weapons, the United States joins with others who cannot approve this project," he said.