U.N. Nuke Report on Iran May Weaken U.S. Case, Say Diplomats
VIENNA, Austria A new report on U.N. nuclear inspections in Iran may be worded in a way that undermines the U.S. case for reporting Tehran to the Security Council this month, diplomats said on Wednesday.
United Nations nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei is due to present a report next week summarizing his agency's two-year investigation of Iran's nuclear program, which Washington says is a front to develop atomic weapons.
Tehran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to electricity generation.
"ElBaradei plans to say in his November report on Iran that the agency has so far found no evidence of diversion (to a nuclear weapons program)," said a diplomat who follows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probe. "But he will balance that by saying that Iran's fuel cycle activities would appear to be out of proportion with the other parts of its nuclear program," the diplomat added, referring to Iran's controversial uranium enrichment activities.
Diplomats said ElBaradei had told the Iranians he would be able to pen a positive report if there was a constructive atmosphere in their talks on Friday with European counterparts who want Tehran to freeze its enrichment program.
The IAEA report will be crucial in the U.S. push to have Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions when the watchdog's board meets on Nov. 25.
While the agency has uncovered many previously concealed parts of Iran's nuclear program, it has found no "smoking gun" clearly proving the U.S. allegations.
Several diplomats said a statement that there was no hard proof of diversion would remove a key legal ground for reporting Iran to the Security Council but would not make it impossible.
An IAEA spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the report was still being drafted.
Tehran's pursuit of enriched uranium fuel is the most controversial aspect its nuclear program because it could potentially be used to produce material for atomic weapons.
ElBaradei is trying to encourage Iran to accept an E.U. offer of peaceful nuclear technology and other political and economic incentives in exchange for an end to its enrichment program.
"ElBaradei told the Iranians that if the atmosphere in the E.U. three talks is positive, then his report on Iran will also be positive," a diplomat said. "That is quite a carrot for Iran."
Friday's talks with French, German, and British officials will be held in Paris.
If no deal is struck ahead of the Nov. 25 IAEA meeting, the E.U. is expected to support a referral to the Security Council.
Diplomats in Vienna say they expect Iran will agree to a temporary suspension of enrichment soon to avoid being referred to the Security Council. However, they said a deal was unlikely to be struck at Friday's meeting.