UN Nuclear Agency Passes Resolution on Iran

The United Nations nuclear watchdog agency passed a resolution on Thursday rebuking Iran for defying demands to curb its uranium enrichment and failing to quell mounting concerns about its suspected research into atomic bombs.

Two days after Israel stepped up threats against Iran, the 35-nation board of the regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency, overwhelmingly adopted the measure, which expressed “serious concern” about Tehran’s nuclear advances but also made clear its desire for a peaceful resolution.

Only Cuba voted against the resolution. Three countries, including Egypt, abstained, according to diplomats who took part in the closed-door meeting at agency headquarters in Vienna.

The resolution faults Iran for disregarding United Nations resolutions calling on it to suspend uranium enrichment — a conduit to producing fuel for nuclear power stations or bombs — and allow investigators to inspect evidence that Iran is pursuing weapons technology.

On Wednesday, six world powers presented a resolution text aimed at raising pressure on Iran, a day after Israel signaled that it was almost out of patience with the use of diplomacy and economic sanctions.

World powers are eager for a diplomatic breakthrough that would avert another potentially devastating Middle East war.

Earlier on Thursday, South Africa put forward an amendment that some Western diplomats said may have weakened the language of the resolution. But a compromise was hammered out during a three-hour adjournment, the diplomats said, satisfying the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany.

South Africa’s proposal was a nod to some members of the Nonaligned Movement, a bloc of mainly developing nations that does not necessarily regard Iran’s nuclear program as moving toward producing a bomb. The amendment concerned a section of the text demanding that Iran implement a yet-to-be-agreed-upon framework accord with the atomic energy agency on how it should conduct its investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research.

In a series of meetings with Iran that began in January, the agency has tried to come up with an approach to carrying out its inquiry that would also satisfy Iran. Yukiya Amano, the agency’s director general, said this week that no concrete results had been achieved, calling the lack of progress “frustrating.”

In a statement to the board, the European Union said, “Iran has not engaged seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”

“Iran’s procrastination is unacceptable,” the union said.

A United States envoy at the meeting accused Iran of “systematically demolishing” a facility at the Parchin military site that agency inspectors want to visit as part of their investigation.

“Iran has been taking measures that appear consistent with an effort to remove evidence of its past activities at Parchin,” said the diplomat, Robert Wood.

Iran says it wants to produce electricity from enriched uranium, not bombs. Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants. But if enriched to a high degree, it can provide the explosive core for a nuclear warhead.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state, sees an Iran that has nuclear weapons as an existential threat, and has stepped up hints of airstrikes on Iranian nuclear installations.

President Obama has said there is still time for diplomacy and sanctions to make Tehran change course.

NY Times