U.S., Europe Reach Agreement on Iran

VIENNA, Austria -- U.S. and European negotiators agreed on how to condemn Iran for hiding its nuclear programs while still encouraging it to cooperate with the UN atomic agency.

The proposed resolution was weaker than the United States had wanted. U.S. officials had hoped that Iran's past nuclear coverups would be enough for the UN Security Council to get involved. The council has the power to impose international sanctions.

Monday's draft avoids any direct mention of the Security Council, but warns the agency would use "all options at its disposal" -- an allusion to the council. The draft broke days of deadlock at the International Atomic Energy Agency. It was formally submitted to the agency's board of governors, who are to resume meeting on Wednesday, said diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We've reached agreement," one of the diplomats said. "We're all set for Wednesday."

The diplomats said that the draft included a "trigger mechanism" demanded by the United States in the form of a clause indirectly threatening Security Council action if Iran was found guilty of "further significant failures" -- new evidence of clandestine activities or failure to honor its new commitments to the IAEA.

"Should any further serious Iranian failures come to light, the board of governors would meet immediately to consider -- in light of the circumstances and the advice of the [IAEA] director general -- all options at its disposal, in accordance with the IAEA statute and Iran's safeguard agreement," the clause said, as read to the press by a diplomat. Last week, Washington had insisted it would hold out for at least a threat of Security Council action over 18 years of clandestine activities by Iran, including uranium enrichment and plutonium processing. U.S. officials say those activities point to a nuclear weapons agenda.

France, Germany and Britain instead put forward a relatively softly worded resolution meant to focus on encouraging Iran to open its nuclear programs to stringent IAEA scrutiny. That was rejected by Washington, leading to a days-long impasse.

As the text of the draft was still developing earlier in the evening, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's chief IAEA envoy, suggested his country was happy with a resolution that avoided direct mention of Security Council involvement should Iran backslide, but refused to characterize developments as a "victory" over Washington.

"It's always natural that there are differences of views on matters of international importance," he said. "What is important here is that a chance has been given for the power of logic to prevail."

He said Iran would not have tolerated any direct mention of Security Council action -- and the implicit threat of sanctions -- in any resolution.

"Those are red lines that are not going to be crossed by anyone," he said, suggesting that Iran would have rethought its nuclear concessions, which include opening its programs to intensive scrutiny and suspending uranium enrichment, had the resolution mentioned the Security Council.