IAEA members meet on clash over Iran nuclear issue

The U.N. nuclear watchdog key members to meet on Monday as the European Union's three biggest powers prepare for a showdown over Iran's atomic program that could lead to U.N. sanctions against Tehran.

Two years after France, Britain and Germany began a diplomatic drive to persuade the Islamic republic to abandon nuclear technology that can produce atom bomb fuel, EU officials said their patience ran out after a defiant speech by Iran's new hard-line president to the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday.

EU diplomats said they had begun drafting a resolution to submit to this week's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board asking it to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose economic sanctions.

"The drafting of a resolution sending Iran to the Security Council has begun," an EU diplomat told Reuters.

According to the New York Times, for several weeks, the United States and its European allies have been pushing the 35 members of the atomic energy agency to support referring Iran to the Security Council. Last month, Iran began reprocessing uranium in defiance of the United Nations, and Western officials maintained that the country had been secretly working on a nuclear weapons program.

But at the end of last week, officials acknowledged that they did not have the votes for anything more than a slim majority at the atomic energy agency. Such a vote would leave them in a weak position within the Security Council, where China also holds a veto.

"Ultimately there is going to be a referral to the Security Council," Mr. Burns said in an interview yesterday with BBC News. He had just come from a meeting with his French, German and English counterparts, where they discussed Iran. "Whether it's this week, next week or next month," he said, is simply a matter "of tactics."

The senior Bush administration official said yesterday, "This is not likely to be a one-day debate."

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