The United Nations' nuclear watchdog has backed a resolution drawn up by the world's major powers to increase pressure on Iran over its secretive nuclear program.
The 35-nation board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted 32-to-2 to back the measure at the end of a two-day meeting in the Austrian capital, Vienna. Indonesia abstained and Cuba and Ecuador opposed the text.
Tehran responded by calling the move a "historic mistake" that threatens to derail cooperation between Iran and the nuclear oversight agency.
The IAEA resolution expresses "deep and increasing concern" about "unresolved" issues regarding Iran's nuclear program, and calls on Tehran to grant the IAEA access to all "relevant" documentation, sites, and personnel in Iran.
The text stops short of recommending a new sanctions regime against the Islamic republic. But the resolution, which was agreed on by all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as Germany, represents a rare instance where Russia and China have joined forces with Western powers on the UN Security Council to take a united stand on Iran.
"It is no longer within the bounds of credulity to claim that Iran's nuclear activities are solely peaceful," said Glyn Davies, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA. "There is little doubt that Iran...at the very least, wants to position itself for a nuclear weapons capability."
Speaking for France, Britain, and Germany, Berlin's chief delegate, Ruediger Luedeking, said Iranian actions "deepened disbelief in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program."
'Credible' Evidence Of Arms Program
The Vienna talks began on November 17 with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano citing his agency's report as for the first time containing "credible" evidence that Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons technology.
The report, released on November 8, said Iran appeared to have worked on designing a bomb, and may still be conducting secret research.
Amano said it was his duty to "alert the world" about suspected Iranian efforts to develop atom bombs.
"The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," Amano said. "It also indicates that, prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured program and that some activities may still be ongoing."
Officials in Iran have dismissed the IAEA report as baseless, saying its nuclear activities are for civilian purposes only.
Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, accused Amano of leaking the agency report to Western countries and some media organizations before its formal release.
Soltanieh, in a letter released to journalists on November 18, said the leaks put Iranian scientists under threat of assassination by the United States and Israel.
Soltanieh called the resolution a "historic mistake" that "deviated the cooperation course between Iran and the IAEA."
After the resolution passed, Soltanieh also said Iran wouldn't attend an IAEA forum next week on creating a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, citing the resolution as well as Israel's alleged possession of nuclear weapons.
Tensions High, As Sanctions Pushed
Tensions over Iran's nuclear program have stirred unrest in the Middle East and increased fears that Israel might take military action to prevent Tehran from pursuing a nuclear program.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he would urge Israel to avoid military action against Iran during talks on November 18 in Canada with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak.
Iran's official IRNA news agency, meanwhile, has reported that Iran's armed forces are planning to hold a four-day air-defense drill to prepare for "potential threats" against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Also today, Switzerland said it had tightened sanctions against Iran, adding 116 names to a blacklist of key players under financial and travel embargo.
The updated blacklist includes several officials from the Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and 111 companies, according to Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
Swiss sanctions cover 250 individuals and institutions in total, including Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who was already on the blacklist from his time as head of the Atomic Energy Organization.
In January, Bern imposed financial restrictions on Iran's oil and gas industry, as other world economies have also done.
compiled from agency reports