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Iran: Analyst Says Reported Agreement Between U.S. And EU Seen As Victory For Both

Analysts say yesterday's reported agreement between the U.S. and the EU on the text of an international resolution condemning Iran for concealing part of its nuclear activities in the past is a victory for both sides. Failure to agree on the wording of an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution had been seen as embarrassing to both the EU and the United States, which had sought to present a united diplomatic front with respect to Tehran.

Prague, 25 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Britain, France, and Germany are reported to have reached a compromise agreement with the United States on the text of a draft United Nations nuclear agency resolution on Iran's nuclear program.

The draft was leaked to reporters in advance of tomorrow's resumption in Vienna of a meeting of the 35-country International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors.

The resolution condemns Tehran for concealing part of its nuclear activities in the last 18 years. The wording was agreed after some five days of intense negotiations. The draft reportedly stops short of referring the issue to the UN Security Council, a fact welcomed by Tehran.

The compromise wording calls for the IAEA board of governors to "consider all options as its disposal" if Iran is found guilty of further violations of its nonproliferation commitments -- a trigger mechanism demanded by the United States. The EU countries, which are engaged in a policy of "constructive dialogue" with Iran, are pressing Tehran to cooperate further with the UN nuclear body. They had warned that confronting Iran would backfire.

Gary Samore, the director of studies of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, says the compromise wording is a victory for both sides. "I think it's a victory for both Washington and its European allies," he said, "because this approach maintains the unity of the Western alliance and maintains the pressure on Iran to continue to cooperate with the IAEA in terms of safeguarding its nuclear program."

Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, said his country is happy the draft resolution does not directly mention the Security Council. Iran had warned of "unpredictable consequences" if the UN nuclear watchdog finds it in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Originally, the United States had pushed for a tougher resolution that would declare Iran in noncompliance with the NPT and would report it to the Security Council. In that case Iran could face sanctions. U.S. officials later dropped this demand but called for a trigger mechanism to warn Iran if guilty of further violations of its nonproliferation obligations.

Samore says the U.S. had to give in because there was little chance it would get enough votes to pass. "There were not enough votes to pass a resolution that would find Iran in noncompliance and would report the matter to the Security Council, so instead the U.S. agreed to a compromise that would continue to keep the threat of reporting to the Security Council alive," he said.

The resolution came after a report by the IAEA that found Iran had secretly enriched uranium and processed plutonium. Both materials can be used for making a nuclear bomb. However, the UN nuclear agency said it has found no evidence yet that Iran has a nuclear-weapons program.

Yesterday, a prominent Iranian lawmaker criticized Iran's nuclear policies for the past 19 years. He said Iran's secrecy in pursuing its nuclear program has lead to the recent revelations culminating in the current crisis.

The draft text "strongly deplores Iran's past failures and breaches of its obligations." But it welcomes Iran's recent cooperation with the agency. Iran says it has suspended its uranium-enrichment activities.

Tehran has also sent an official letter of intent to the IAEA to sign the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which would allow for snap inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran's cooperation came after an IAEA deadline that asked Iran to uncover the full extent of its nuclear activity.

Samore says even though the agreement reached between the U.S. and the three EU countries marks significant progress, the crisis over Iran's nuclear program is not over. He says the initiative now lies with Iran. "First of all there's a question about whether Iran's admission about its past nuclear activities [is] accurate, and it will take the IAEA at least a few months to investigate and determine whether or not Iran has finally told the truth about its previous nuclear activities," he said. "Second, Iran has to actually sign and implement the Additional Protocol. And finally -- and I think most importantly -- there is still a question about whether Iran will continue to keep its enrichment and reprocessing facilities suspended or whether it will seek to begin to revive them once these safeguards issues have been resolved "

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, but Washington accuses Tehran of pursuing building weapons of mass destruction. Agencies quoting diplomats at the International Atomic Energy Agency report the resolution is set to pass in tomorrow's board meeting. But Melissa Fleming, the agency spokeswoman, today declined to comment on the agreement. She says it's still a draft.
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.