The U.N. nuclear agency said Friday it will hold an emergency executive meeting next week to persuade Iran to continue negotiations with European powers on an incentive package aimed at getting Iran to halt some of its nuclear activities. The meeting comes as Tehran is threatening to restart processing of some nuclear materials.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the 35-nation board is acting at the request of Britain, France and Germany, the three countries negotiating a deal to induce Iran to scale back its nuclear ambitions.
"Three countries of the EU have called for a special session of the board of governors and its now scheduled for next Tuesday and the topic will, of course, be Iran," she said.
The three European powers took this unusual step after Iran declared it would defy an agreement with them and resume uranium processing. Tehran then agreed to a delay to enable IAEA inspectors to get equipment up and running to monitor the activities, but insisted the work would go ahead.
The last time the IAEA called an emergency session was two years ago after its inspectors were forced out of North Korea by the communist regime. The IAEA board decided then to send the matter to the U.N. Security Council where it is still pending.
Many members of the IAEA board oppose giving Iran an ultimatum and instead want inspectors to continue verifying Tehran's nuclear program that was kept secret for decades.
The United States maintains Iran has been hiding a nuclear weapons program, and, along with Canada and other countries, backs the idea of sending the Iran nuclear file to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
But other nations represented on the IAEA board, including Brazil, India and Pakistan, are more sympathetic to Iran's claim that it has a right to the peaceful development of nuclear technology.
The European Union countries prefer to negotiate with Tehran and they have offered incentives, such as sharing nuclear power-generation technology, to make sure Iran does not develop an atomic weapon. The three countries have drawn up a sweeping new package to induce Iran to cooperate.
But Iran has become impatient with the slow pace of the negotiations and threaten to resume some nuclear activities that it had agreed to suspend.
Diplomats say the board's emergency session aims to make Tehran understand that its defiance could result in an escalation of the dispute. But they say it's unlikely the board will agree to refer Iran to the Security Council.
According to diplomats, the board may agree, however, to send the case to the Security Council at its next regular meeting in September if Iran continues to defy IAEA rules.