Stymied in Security Council, US presses case against Iran with IAEA

New agenda - denying Teheran aid in building a plutonium-producing reactor that can be used to make nuclear warheads.

Mohamed ElBaradei 88 (photo credit: )
Mohamed ElBaradei 88
(photo credit: )
Frustrated by Security Council inaction over Iran, Washington is looking to next week's International Atomic Energy Agency meeting to press a new agenda - denying Teheran aid in building a plutonium-producing reactor that can be used to make nuclear warheads. Washington's push to enlist the backing of the IAEA's 35 board nations on a technology ban for the reactor appears to reflect US recognition that the council is hamstrung for now because of East-West differences on how to sanction Tehran for its nuclear defiance. Seven diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential information, told The Associated Press separately Tuesday that the board would likely opt to deny Iran's request for help on its Arak research reactor when it meets starting Nov. 20 to discuss the project and hundreds of others submitted by the agency's member nations. Beside making a decision on Arak, the board meeting also will hear a report from IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei on his agency's attempts to investigate Tehran's nuclear activities. That report was to be circulated internally to the agency's 35 board member nations later Tuesday. U.N officials told The Associated Press it would focus on Iran's defiance of a Security Council demand that it stop uranium enrichment and generally reflect Iran's attempts to obstruct the agency's investigative efforts. It would also reveal further details of laboratory testing of enriched uranium samples, one of the officials said without going into details and demanding anonymity in exchange for discussing the confidential report. Much of the IAEA probe has focused on Iran's enrichment program - while Iran says it wants only to enrich to low levels to generate power, some of the samples found by IAEA inspectors show levels higher than that. That could indicate attempts to reach nuclear weapons-grade enrichment, something Tehran denies. The campaign by the US and its closest allies to deprive Tehran of IAEA help on the reactor at Arak has picked up speed as signs of deadlock increased at the Security Council on how to penalize Iran. Russia - backed by China - opposes tough action advocated by the United States, Britain and France. Russian amendments to a Western draft resolution floated last week seek to reduce sanctions to a minimum, deleting language that would have choked off Iran's access to foreign missile technology and most nuclear procurements. The IAEA board in February referred Iran to the council, suggesting it had breached of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and might be trying to make nuclear weapons.