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UN Nuclear Agency Debates Resolution Expressing Concern Over Iran

A draft resolution submitted on behalf of the European Union to the International Atomic Energy Agency expresses concern over Iran's resumption of its nuclear program. The resolution calls on Iran to fully suspend all nuclear fuel-related activities and asks the agency to verify Iran's compliance.

On the third and final day of the IAEA's emergency meeting in Vienna, Britain, France and Germany are trying to get approval for a draft resolution demanding that Iran reverse its resumption earlier this week of uranium conversion activities at a plant near the city of Isfahan.

Iran made the facility fully operational on Wednesday when it broke IAEA seals on uranium processing equipment there.

The facility had been inactive since November, when the three EU countries and Iran agreed that the Islamic republic would suspend its nuclear activities while the two sides negotiated a deal leading to permanent suspension of Iranian nuclear processing in exchange for a package of economic and political incentives.

But, over the past few days, Iran rejected the latest EU offer and resumed converting uranium ore into uranium gas, a first step toward making enriched uranium, which could be used in atomic weapons.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming describes the EU draft resolution that is being debated by the agency's 35-member board of governors.

"A resolution was now tabled that expresses serious concerns about Iran's decision to reactivate the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan," she said. "What it also does is call on Iran to reverse its decision, go back to a full suspension of all uranium enrichment activities, including this uranium conversion facility."

The draft stops short of asking the board to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, but it holds out the possibility that the council could be asked to take action next month if the nuclear agency finds that Iran has not complied with the request to fully suspend its enrichment-related activities.

Iran has always maintained that, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has every right to develop nuclear technology for civilian purposes, even though the United States and, increasingly, the EU suspect it is trying to produce a nuclear bomb.

The head of the Iranian delegation to the IAEA, Sirus Nasseri, says the West has nothing to fear from his country's nuclear program.

"All we are trying to do is produce nuclear fuel," he said. "And we are prepared to provide credible assurances to our European partners that we will not divert this to other purposes. It is possible to work an arrangement as long as [there is] a will to do that. And that's all that the Europeans have to demonstrate."

EU diplomats say their draft resolution has encountered opposition from some developing countries on the IAEA board. They say some fear that the attempt to force Iran to give up nuclear enrichment could some day be used against their own nuclear programs, while others are worried that cracking down on Iran could leave the Islamic republic as isolated from the international community as North Korea is.