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UN Watchdog Agency to Meet on Iranian Nuclear Program - 2003-11-19

The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency meets Thursday and Friday in Vienna to make decisions about Iran's nuclear program. The board could decide it is satisfied or, if not satisfied, could refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council which could impose diplomatic or economic sanctions.

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, reports to the board of governors Thursday on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Mr. ElBaradei has said that over the last 20 years Iran has consistently provided false information or none at all on its nuclear program. He says that violated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which Iran has signed.

Such violations would normally result in the IAEA board referring the matter to the Security Council. But for the past few weeks Iran has cooperated with the agency, and has promised to sign an agreement allowing tougher inspections of suspect nuclear facilities.

The United States is not satisfied with the Iranian moves. It says Iran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons, which Iran denies. The United States wants the matter to go to the United Nations, but other key nations disagree.

Major European nations have welcomed Iran's recent promises of cooperation, and prefer for the matter to stay with the agency in Vienna.

Earlier this month, as part of a deal with Britain, Germany and France, Iran agreed to temporarily suspend its controversial uranium enrichment program in return for nuclear technology.

Legal experts at the IAEA are working on wording for a possible resolution that could mention Iran's past non-compliance without automatically sending the issue to the Security Council. Diplomats say such a compromise is likely to get the support of the 35-member board by Friday.