Iran confirmed Monday it had accepted — albeit reluctantly — a face-saving solution to a uranium enrichment dispute that could have escalated into referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.
Spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told reporters Iran agreed not to test 20 centrifuges it had been insisting on using for research "for now," as part of a total suspension of nuclear activities that can yield weapons-grade uranium.
Ramezanzadeh said that while the 20 centrifuges would not be used, they would not be sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. At the IAEA in Vienna, diplomats also had said the agreement stipulated that the 20 centrifuges would not be placed under IAEA seals but monitored by cameras.
With that issue settled, Iran accepted the latest European draft of a resolution that commits Tehran to a total suspension of uranium enrichment and all related activities. Centrifuges can spin gas into enriched uranium, which can then be used to produce energy or bombs.
Iran says its nuclear program is purely peaceful, while the United States accuses it of seeking nuclear weapons and it is pressing the United Nations to take firm action.
The IAEA board adopted the resolution later Monday. The board could have asked for Security Council involvement if Iran had not accepted a total suspension that included the 20 research centrifuges.
Iran had raised the research centrifuge issue late, forcing the IAEA board meeting to adjourn in disarray Friday. Though it was unclear why Iran would risk scuttling the resolution, officials here have faced pressure from Iranian hard-liners over what some see as caving in to international demands.
"In the draft resolution, it has been specified that how to use the (20) centrifuges for research has to be worked out in negotiations with the IAEA," Ramezanzadeh said.
"The draft resolution presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency is an appropriate resolution although it doesn't meet all our objectives," Ramezanzadeh said.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, was more positive, telling state-run television from Vienna that "all the fundamental and basic demands of Iran have been inserted in the EU proposed draft." He said Iran's contention that suspension of its enrichment activities was voluntary had been acknowledged in the draft.
In Vienna, a senior diplomat with nuclear expertise told The Associated Press the Iranian pledge appeared to meet the European demands for full suspension.
But a government official from a board member country told AP that France, Germany and Britain had accepted an Iranian demand to further water down the draft resolution. The text to be adopted Monday now includes an extra phrase emphasizing that the suspension is not a legal or binding obligation on Tehran's part, he said.
Western diplomats said The United States — which insists Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons — was unhappy with the draft and felt it had been left out of negotiations on the text. aad-ti/db