The Guardian: Iran agreed to freeze all its nuclear programme last night, dropping its insistence that some uranium enrichment activities be exempted from a deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Ian Traynor in Vienna
Iran agreed to freeze all its nuclear programme last night, dropping its insistence that some uranium enrichment activities be exempted from a deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Under the compromise, Tehran dropped its condition that 20 centrifuges be exempted from the freeze. The centrifuges, which are crucial to the enrichment process, would be monitored by IAEA cameras instead of being sealed.
The deal is unlikely to end the controversy over Iran’s nuclear programme. Although the meeting of the IAEA board had been expected to end last night, officials decided to reconvene on Monday to agree a formula on Iran.
European and Iranian officials spent hours behind closed doors yesterday, haggling over the wording of a board resolution. The initial version drafted by Britain, Germany and France was tough on Iran, following an agreement between Tehran and the EU troika three weeks ago under which Iran pledged to freeze its enrichment activities.
But a revised draft negotiated yesterday watered down the most contentious passages and was less demanding of the Iranians. This is unlikely to satisfy the US, which is confident the EU-Iran pact will collapse.
The Europeans have dropped their demand that the IAEA be given unrestricted access to all sites.
This was opposed not only by Iran but many other countries on the board because of the precedent it would have set. The Europeans also deleted a clause allowing the Americans and others to take the row to the UN security council if Tehran broke any agreement.
The US has been taking a low-key approach in Vienna this week, but is sceptical about both the Iran-EU agreement and the resolution emerging from this week’s negotiations.
Yesterday President Bush said that he appreciated the European efforts but said: “The only good deal is one that’s verifiable.”
The diplomatic consensus in Vienna is that the Bush administration is likely to hold fire on Iran until its second term begins in January.
The next session of the IAEA board is not scheduled until March, giving the US a two-month window to come up with a coherent policy if Iran reneges on the agreement, as it did last summer.
º South Korea was rebuked by the IAEA yesterday for secret experiments that could have helped it develop an atom bomb, but Seoul was spared the embarrassment of being hauled in front of the UN security council.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA chief, said the agency’s board was “seriously concerned” about the experiments but noted Seoul’s “active cooperation” in clearing up the case. The IAEA said this month that South Korea had enriched a tiny amount of uranium in 2000 to a level close to that usable in an atomic weapon.