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Europe

U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Set to Rebuke Iran

Europe's big three and the U.S. have finally achieved a compromise on Iran's nuclear program. Tehran can expect censure from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog -- but not the threat Washington hardliners had wanted.

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IAEA head ElBaradei recently revealed that Iran has been hiding 18 years of nuclear research

After a week of wrangling, European and U.S. diplomats agreed on a draft resolution regarding Iran's nuclear program, which will be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governing council on Wednesday in Vienna.

The text condemns Iran for hiding 18 years of atomic research but encourages its declared intentions to be honest and in cooperation with international nuclear regulators. Although agreed to, the resolution falls short of Washington's desire to threaten Iran with the wrath of the U.N. Security Council, which could impose economic sanctions against Tehran for further breaches of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Jury out on nuclear weapons

A week ago the 35-nation nuclear watchdog had failed to decide what course to take against Iran. The dispute began after an IAEA report had revealed that the Tehran had violated international agreements by covering up its nuclear program for nearly two decades. The nuclear regulators said they did not have evidence of a covert Iranian atomic weapons program, but the jury was still out on whether Iran was striving to develop nuclear arms.

Britain, France and Germany stood up against the United States, which insisted Tehran should face U.N. Security Council sanctions for violating the NPT. The European "big three," however, feared that sharp measures against Iran would push the country to ditch concessions it had made to the Europeans in October, which included permitting snap inspections and suspending uranium enrichment programs.

Trigger clause

The draft resolution text, which is expected to be passed without dissent by the IAEA governing council, includes a so-called trigger clause to ensure that further Iranian nuclear breaches are referred immediately to the body, which could then appeal to the U.N. Security Council.

"That's an element that we wanted to see in the resolution, which points out that action will be forthcoming -- appropriately so -- if there is any indication in the future that Iran is not meeting its obligations," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters on Tuesday.

"The most important fact is that the United States is failing step by step in forming a consensus against Iran," Tehran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Saheli, said in the Iranian Qods newspaper, according to Reuters. He has said his country would accept a resolution that didn't directly mention the Security Council.

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

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