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Europeans, U.S. Wrangle Over Iran's Nuclear Program

Atomic energy regulators from Europe and Washington disagree on measures against Iran for its potential development of nuclear arms. Talks will continue next week, after negotiators failed to find a compromise this week.

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IAEA head ElBaradei has both praise and criticism for Tehran.

The members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, aren't expected to pass a resolution on Iran's nuclear program until next week at the earliest. Instead, European and U.S. diplomats continue to struggle to reach a compromise, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Friday.

It will be "some time" until they come to an agreement, ElBaradei said.

The IAEA governors meeting, which began on Thursday, was originally meant to come to an end on Friday. But the 35-nation board of governors plans to meet again on Wednesday, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming announced.

The discord revolves around how strongly Iran should be censured for its nuclear program. A recent IAEA report said that Iran had not complied with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) over the past two decades. But ElBaradei's report also said there was no evidence that Tehran was conducting a secret nuclear weapons program.

Iran has admitted to failing to disclose uranium enrichment activities and plants.

U.S. wants sanctions

The United States says Iran's past actions regarding inspections of its nuclear program indicates it is working towards developing nuclear arms. American officials say they want the IAEA to find Iran in breach of the NPT, which would allow the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions.

Britain, France and Germany had first proposed a draft resolution that rebuked Iran for "failures to meet safeguards obligations," but praised the country for cooperating with the IAEA. The draft was rejected by Washington, which said the wording was too mild.

Verteidigungsminister Kamal Kharrazi im Gespräch mit Außenminister Oskar Fischer

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi (left) talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer during an official meeting in Tehran in late October, 2003.

The "big three" European countries had won key concessions from Iran to cooperate with the IAEA when its foreign ministers visited Tehran in October. Now they fear the threat of sanctions could push Iran to break the agreements that include permitting snap inspections and suspending uranium enrichment.

Big three under fire

But they are also reaping criticism from their European allies. According to Reuters, diplomats from other European states have complained that Britain, France and Germany have designated themselves EU spokesmen, but they don't represent the views of the entire bloc.

Iran denies that it is working on developing nuclear weapons, insisting its program is geared solely toward generating power and is civilian in nature.

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