A Top U.S. official says his country will demand that Iran come before the U.N. Security Council if it does not agree to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA to inspect its nuclear facilities. Iran's nuclear program was discussed at a two-day meeting of G-8 countries in Geneva in advance of next week's IAEA governing board meeting in Vienna.
A central focus of the closed door session was to try to get the Group of Eight countries to agree on a common position to stop Teheran from developing nuclear weapons. The United States and a trio of European Union countries, Britain, France and Germany, differ in their approach.
But, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton says over the past two days the U.S. and the EU-3 countries have tried to close the so-called tactical gap between them.
"I think I can say that we made progress in that regard here in Geneva. We have not completely closed the tactical gap," he said. "But, I think discussions will continue over the weekend and into next week and we will see what we are able to do. The overall objective of ensuring Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons capabilities is not an issue. All of us are agreed on that."
The United States has staked out a hard-line position. Washington wants the IAEA to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This could force the issue before the U.N. Security Council. The European countries have adopted a softer approach. They want to give Teheran more time to comply with the treaty provisions before resorting to Security Council measures.
Mr. Bolton argues that Iran has been given enough time and has broken an agreement it made with the EU-3 to suspend its uranium enrichment program. He says bringing the case of Iran to the Security Council would not automatically trigger sanctions against the country.
"Iran's program, amounting as it does to a threat to international peace and security is of sufficient gravity that we want to put the Iranian program at center stage, in the world spotlight, in the forum of the Security Council and, we think just politically, the international dynamic would change dramatically if Iran were in center stage in New York. If they were to truly give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons, there is a way to deal with that," he said. "I think we demonstrated that in the case of Libya."
Since Libya renounced its nuclear weapons, the United States and other countries increasingly have brought that country back into the international diplomatic fold.
Mr. Bolton says the G-8 countries also discussed the worldwide threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program and South Korea's surprise announcement that it had conducted a secret uranium enrichment experiment in 2000. He says the U.S. government will not apply a double standard to South Korea. If that country has violated the international safeguards agreement, he says, it too will be criticized.