VIENNA (AFP) -The European Union has backed off from its attempt to have Iran immediately called before the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, according to a draft UN resolution read to AFP.
The EU earlier in the week had been calling overtly for Iran”s immediate referral to the Council over nuclear activities which the United States claims hide weapons work.
But this was opposed at a meeting in Vienna this week of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency”s 35-nation board of governors by Russia, China and non-aligned nations which fear that Council actions against Iran could escalate into calls for trade sanctions that would draw sharp retaliation from the oil giant.
The draft resolution "requests" IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei to report on Iran”s nuclear program "to the IAEA board (of governors) which will address the timing and content" in its own report on Tehran that could be given to the Security Council, although the Council”s name is not mentioned.
The previous draft circulated on Monday by the EU had called for a report "to the Security Council."
The new draft does however specifically find Iran in non-compliance with international safeguards mandated under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The wording is that the IAEA board "finds that Iran”s many failures and breaches of its obligation to comply with its NPT safeguards agreement constitute non-compliance in the context of article 12 c of the statute" of the IAEA.
A Western diplomat said the climb down in calling this week for Iran to be taken to the Security Council was due to Russia”s stiff opposition to the move.
"The Russians are the reason," the diplomat said, adding that the hope was that delaying referral "gets them on board."
However it was unclear if the new draft resolution would be accepted by Russians and the non-aligned nations, as the IAEA board of governors continued its meeting on Thursday.
Another diplomat described the delay as "frustrating" as EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany had written such a strong resolution and were determined earlier in the week to get a consensus on referral. Failing that they were determined to call for a vote on referral, which they believed the West had enough votes to win.
But diplomats said there was concern that a lack of consensus could diminish the message they were trying to deliver to Iran, which rejected a deal a trade deal with the EU and restarted last month sensitive nuclear fuel work, triggering a new crisis.
A US official told AFP in Washington: "By our count we got the votes, it would be a majority vote," with at least 18 of the 35 members of the IAEA board of governors were for referral.
"But the question is do you do it now or do you work the diplomacy so that you tee it up so that when you finally take the next step in pushing the brinksmanship that you”ve got more people on your side," he said.
A non-aligned diplomat at the IAEA, and who asked not to be named, said the first European draft resolution was unacceptable as it was "very hard" and apparently "a response to a hardline speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the UN General Assembly in New York last Saturday.
Ahmadinejad declared the Islamic Republic had "an inalienable right" to peaceful nuclear technology and rejected calls to halt uranium conversion work.
Conversion is the first step in making enriched uranium, which can be fuel for nuclear power reactors or the raw material for atom bombs.
The Europeans had already signaled they were ready to compromise on the resolution, recognizing that they needed to secure the support of Russia, which has veto power on the Council.