European powers seek action against Iran at IAEA meeting despite US concerns

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Britain, France and Germany have circulated a draft resolution against Iran ahead of the UN nuclear watchdog’s board meeting next week and appear determined to push it despite opposition from their US ally, three diplomats said on Wednesday.

Reuters reported on May 24 that the US and its European partners, known as the E3, were divided over whether to confront Iran with Washington fearing such a resolution could risk further escalation in the region and rock the boat ahead of November’s US election.

“We are pushing the Americans, but they remain stuck in the thinking that nothing should be done to escalate with Iran,” said a senior European official. “That has achieved nothing so far and we believe we need to show firmness now.”

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Tehran bristles at such resolutions and often responds by stepping up its activities.

It is 18 months since the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board last passed a resolution against Iran, ordering it to cooperate urgently with a years-long IAEA investigation into uranium particles found at three undeclared sites, indicating the possibility of nuclear activity.

While the number of sites in question has been narrowed to two, Iran still has not explained the traces. The number of other problems in Iran has also risen including Tehran barring many of the IAEA’s top uranium-enrichment experts on the inspection team.

Three diplomats said the E3 had shared a draft text with countries on the IAEAs 35-nation board.

The diplomats said the resolution focuses on the probe and refers to the possibility of asking IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to provide a “comprehensive report” on Iran’s nuclear activities more wide-ranging than his regular quarterly ones.

It does not threaten to refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council.

They have yet to formally submit it, which could happen as late as early next week.

Iran is enriching uranium to close to weapons-grade at a steady pace while discussions aimed at improving its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog are stalled, two confidential reports by the watchdog showed on Monday.

Concern about Iran’s atomic activities has been high for some time. It has been enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, still below the roughly 90 percent that is weapons-grade, for three years. It has enough material enriched to that level, if refined further, for three nuclear bombs, according to an IAEA measure.

Western powers say there is no credible civilian energy purpose in enriching to that level, and the IAEA says no other country has done so without making a nuclear weapon. Iran says its objectives are entirely peaceful.

The United States, however, has not wanted to seek another resolution against Iran at recent IAEA board meetings. Before the last one, in March, the European powers had already disagreed with Washington on whether to seek a resolution before backing down.

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Iran’s near-bomb-grade uranium stock grows, talks stall, IAEA reports say

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Iran says talks with UN nuclear watchdog have been ‘positive’

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