The United State says the International Atomic Energy Agency's vote Friday censuring Iran shows a growing international "deficit of confidence" over Tehran's insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful. The White House says time is running out for diplomacy on the Iranian program.
The Obama administration had been working intensively, behind the scenes, in support of a strong rebuke of Iran over its lack of cooperation on the nuclear issue. It says Friday's IAEA vote, which had the support of major world powers including Russia and China, shows the urgent need for Iran to address the growing confidence deficit over its nuclear intentions.
The governing board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog group voted by a 25 to three margin with six abstentions in Vienna to censure Iran for concealing the existence, until recently, of a largely-underground uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom.
The measure, the first of its kind against Iran in nearly four years, reflected growing international impatience over Iran's refusal to fully embrace a plan it appeared to accept two months ago that would have greatly eased concerns about its nuclear program.
Under the proposal by IAEA chief Mohamed elBaradei, Iran would send abroad much of the enriched uranium it has stockpiled in exchange for more highly-enriched fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
A White House statement said the overwhelming IAEA vote demonstrates the resolve and unity of the world community with regard to Iran's nuclear program, and the "broad consensus" calling on Tehran to live up to international obligations and offer transparency on its activities.
It said the United States still wants a diplomatic resolution of the issue but that time, and international patience, with Iran are running out - a warning also raised by U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Glynn Davies in comments Friday in Vienna.
"The United States remains firmly committed to a peaceful resolution to international concerns over Iran's nuclear program," said Davies. "We also remain willing to engage Iran, to work toward a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dilemma it has created for itself, if only Iran would choose such a course, but our patience, and that of the international community, is limited."
The White House said if Iran refuses to meets its obligations, it will be responsible "for its own growing isolation and the consequences."
A senior State Department official who spoke to reporters said the IAEA vote reinforces a message that major powers are committed to putting together what he termed a "package of consequences" - implicitly sanctions or other punitive steps - if they don't find a willing partner in Tehran.
He stopped short of predicting that Russia and China, which have blocked past attempts to isolate Iran, would agree to new U.N. sanctions. But he said both are fully committed to a two track strategy of incentives if Iran cooperates and penalties if it doesn't.
The senior official said both powers had played a useful role in persuading IAEA members to support the resolution, and that China suggested language incorporated in the final draft.
He also said President Obama holds to year-end target for determining if diplomacy with Iran is feasible, saying that as the end of the year approaches, "judgments need to be made."
Asked if the United States agreed with IAEA chief elBaradei's comment Thursday that nuclear outreach to Iran is at a "dead end," the senior official said the U.S. administration "has a lot of respect" for his views, and that the director general "accurately expressed both where we are, and the concerns that all of us share."