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U.S., Europe fall out over Iran's n-plan

By Ian Traynor

VIENNA, SEPT. 16. The U.S. was at loggerheads with Britain, France and Germany yesterday over how to deter Iran from developing a military nuclear programme.

The row paralysed a crucial board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Washington balked at European attempts to give Iran one last chance to dispel doubts about its 20-year-old nuclear programme, and insisted on a formula that would see Teheran reported to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions unless it complied with the IAEA.

The session was called off yesterday and last night diplomats said the meeting could end without agreement tomorrow.

`Too lame'

The Americans accused the Europeans of being too lame and accommodating towards the Islamic Republic.

The E.U. draft resolution, which reflects exasperation at what it considers to be broken promises by Teheran in the past year, threatens penalties for the Iranian Government's reluctance to come clean.

It urges Iran ``immediately and verifiably'' to suspend all parts of its uranium enrichment programme, the key to producing a nuclear bomb.

The draft says the row has dragged on long enough, and that when the nuclear watchdog's board next meets in November, it should reach a final verdict on what to do.

That is too soft for the Americans who are demanding tougher wording, setting a deadline for compliance and making Iran's referral to the Security Council in New York automatic if it defies the ultimatum.

`Remedy all failures'

A rival formula submitted by the U.S. said: ``It is essential and urgent that Iran remedy all failures identified by the agency ... no later than October 31.''

The E.U. draft also asks the IAEA's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, to deliver a comprehensive verdict on Iran's nuclear activities by November, including ``his best assessment of the implications'' — in plain language, whether Iran is running a secret bomb programme.

It is unlikely that Dr. ElBaradei will be able to deliver such a statement within six weeks. Failure to rule out a covert Iranian military project could be enough to demand sanctions.

The American line is being dictated by John Bolton, the hawkish Undersecretary of State for Counter-Proliferation, who was in Europe last week and who was consulted on the E.U. draft last Friday in Geneva.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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