VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran on Thursday withdrew a bid for a seat on the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s policy-setting board after failing to win consensus backing from a regional group of Middle East and South Asian countries.
Iran is under an eight-year U.N. investigation over its nuclear programme, which the West suspects is aimed at developing bombs and the Islamic Republic says is for peaceful power generation purposes only.
An Arab diplomat said Iran, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates had vied for the two seats allocated for the group on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors, which meets periodically at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
Shortly before a meeting to decide the issue, Iran announced it would drop its candidacy for the sake of “the solidarity of the group,” the Arab envoy said, without elaborating. Iranian diplomats were not available for comment.
Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, both U.S. allies, were later elected to the 35-nation board on Thursday.
An Iranian attempt to join the board would have encountered Western opposition if it had come to a vote at the annual assembly of 151 IAEA member states, which is holding a week-long meeting in Vienna.
The Board of Governors has the power to refer countries to the U.N. Security Council if they are believed to be flouting IAEA regulations.
It did this with Iran in 2006 over its failure to declare sensitive uranium enrichment-related activity and cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors.
Under IAEA rules, if any of its six regional groups fails to agree on consensus candidates for the board, the whole assembly would settle the issue with a ballot.
“I believe (Iran) decided they would rather withdraw the bid than risk losing a vote in the assembly,” said a Western diplomat.