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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Surfaces in IAEA's Probe of Iran

APElBaradei addressing the board Thursday
VIENNA, Austria -- The International Atomic Energy Agency has identified Russia, China and Pakistan as probable suppliers of some of the technology Iran used to enrich uranium in its suspect nuclear programs, diplomats said Thursday.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity as a key IAEA board meeting on how to react to Iran's nuclear activities adjourned until Friday.

While Iran has acknowledged nearly two decades of concealment, it has recently begun cooperating with the agency in response to international pressure.

The session's adjournment just hours after it started let delegates consult on the wording of a resolution that would satisfy both U.S. calls for strong condemnation of Iran's past coverups and European desires to keep Iran cooperating by focusing on its recent openness.

On Wednesday, Washington rejected a proposed European draft resolution that would urge Iran to continue cooperation with the agency but refrain from harshly condemning it for concealing parts of its nuclear program, saying it was prepared to opt for no resolution rather than a toothless one.

That "weak resolution is already history," said one diplomat, suggesting that a compromise resolution satisfying both sides was in the works.

As part of Iran's cooperation, it has suspended uranium enrichment -- an activity that the United States had linked to what it says was Iran's nuclear weapons agenda. Iran insists it enriched uranium only to produce electricity.

While acknowledging that some of its equipment had traces of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium, it insists those traces were inadvertently imported on material it purchased abroad. Iran has said it cannot identify the countries of origin because it bought the centrifuges and laser enrichment equipment through third parties.

The Vienna-based IAEA needs to establish where the equipment came from, however, to be able to compare isotope traces in its efforts to verify whether Iran is telling the truth -- or whether it deliberately enriched uranium to nuclear weapons levels.

The diplomats declined to say how the agency established the probable origin of the equipment. Reacting to earlier reports linking it to Iran's enrichment program, Pakistan had denied all involvement.

Moscow's public nuclear link with Tehran is a still-to-be-finalized $800 million deal to help build Iran's first nuclear reactor. The United States says the facility in Bushehr on the Persian Gulf could help Iran develop weapons. The Kremlin has said it shares some of the U.S. concerns and has prodded Tehran to accept tighter IAEA controls.

In recent interviews, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said that five countries and companies in Asia and Europe are the source of the enrichment equipment.

The revelations came amid intense IAEA discussions on a "quite strong" resolution on Iran's past covert nuclear activities that also acknowledges its recent cooperation, ElBaradei said.

Opening Thursday's meeting of the agency's 35-nation board of governors, ElBaradei characterized Iran's recent cooperation as "very encouraging" and said inspectors were getting full access, under new agreements with Tehran.

But ElBaradei said he expected the agency's board to address "the bad news and the good news" in a resolution being drafted to hold Tehran accountable for its past nuclear activities.

"The bad news is that there have been failures and breaches. The good news is that there has been a new chapter in cooperation," he said.