The Bush administration says the new International Atomic Energy Agency resolution on Iran shows that Tehran is increasingly isolated over its nuclear program. Officials insist the measure approved by the IAEA Monday was not a diplomatic setback for the United States.
The Bush administration has long held that there are ample grounds for referring the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
But officials here are resisting the notion that the new IAEA resolution, allowing Iran to at least for the time being to avoid such a referral, is a setback for U.S. diplomacy.
Under the European-brokered resolution, approved by consensus in Vienna with U.S. assent, Tehran agreed to a freeze on all uranium enrichment activities while an investigation of its nuclear program by the U.N. agency continues.
The United States maintains that the nominally peaceful Iranian nuclear program has a covert weapons component
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher denied that Monday's resolution represented a "lost battle" for U.S. diplomacy.
He said while United States "might have preferred a different outcome" in Vienna, Iran has been put on notice that if it fails to uphold terms of the new resolution, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei will be obliged to initiate action leading to a referral to the Security Council.
"We now look to the International Atomic Energy Agency to continue its investigation into Iran's safeguards implementation to verify whether Iran is meeting its latest suspension pledges," he said. "And we would look forward to an immediate report from Dr. ElBaradei if Iran fails to sustain full suspension or impedes International Atomic Energy Agency verification. In that case, we certainly believe the board should have no choice but refer Iran to the Security Council."
Mr. Boucher said U.S. diplomatic efforts over the past year have increased the pressure on, and isolation of, Iran over the nuclear issue and led to its agreement to suspend enrichment activity.
He noted that Russia is now insisting that it retain control over nuclear fuel it provides for Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf.
He also said U.S. allies have made clear to Iran that it will not get economic and diplomatic benefits from Europe unless it makes its nuclear freeze permanent.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. team at the IAEA meeting said the United States had not ruled out the idea of moving on its own to take the Iranian issue to the Security Council.
At the White House, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the United States welcomes and appreciates the efforts of European allies to get Iran to abide by its commitments.
He said Iran has failed to comply with international obligations many times over the last year-and-a-half. He said for the latest agreement to succeed, the Europeans, the IAEA board and the international community "will need to remain vigilant."