UN atomic agency's board rebukes Iran over compliance
In near unanimity, the board of governors passes resolution criticising Iran for ignoring demands that it suspend uranium enrichment
The UN atomic agency's board has approved with a crushing majority a resolution criticising Iran brought by world powers that was also aimed at dissuading Israel from military action.
The resolution passed late on Thursday expresses "serious concern that Iran continues to defy" UN Security Council resolutions for it to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which can be used for peaceful purposes but also in a nuclear weapon.
It highlights the International Atomic Energy Agency's complaint that activities at the Parchin base near Tehran, where it suspects nuclear weapons research took place, would "significantly hamper" inspectors - should Iran let them visit.
The resolution was introduced at the meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors on Wednesday, after days of haggling between Western nations, and Russia and China, which are seen as more lenient on Tehran.
It was approved by 31 countries, with Cuba voting against and Egypt, Ecuador and Tunisia abstaining, all four of them are members of the Non-Aligned Movement of which Iran is now the rotating president.
"I hope that Iran clearly understands the message and engages with us on substance," International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano said in an interview.
Iran insists its expanding atomic programme is for peaceful purposes, but since the IAEA has repeatedly said it was unable to vouch for this, the Security Council passed six resolutions against Tehran, four with sanctions attached.
The United States and the European Union have also posed additional unilateral sanctions that have hit Iran's vital oil exports hard. EU foreign ministers said last weekend they were considering additional measures.
"I think this resolution sends a very clear signal to Iran the diplomatic pressure is intensifying and Iran's isolation is growing," US envoy to the IAEA Robert Wood said in Vienna after the vote.
"The time right now is for compliance over defiance and Iran needs to comply now with its obligations … We hope Iran will hear and understand the message and begin to co-operate."
French foreign ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani said: "We are determined, with those countries that are ready, to further increase sanctions against Iran, as long as it continues to refuse to comply with its international obligations.
Iran's envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh hit back, saying the resolution "is not the way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. It will only complicate the situation and jeopardise the co-operative environment".
Soltanieh also said: "More than ever there is a need for reform of the decision-making process of the board of governors … It was designed 50 years ago. It doesn't cope with the reality of today."
The IAEA resolution, the 12th in nine years, stopped short of referring Iran to the Security Council. But it was significant that Western nations were able to get Moscow and Beijing on board, and at a time of heightened speculation that Israel, the Middle East's sole, if undeclared, nuclear-armed state, might bomb Iran, analysts say.
The resolution "reflects the desire of member states to underscore that diplomacy is paramount and it warns Israel in two separate paragraphs that the diplomatic process should be supported," said Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Israeli frustration has grown at what it sees as the international community's failure to take seriously the threat posed by Iran.