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EU, Iran feud over nuclear program

Showdown set for today at UN

VIENNA -- The European Union submitted a motion yesterday that sets Iran up for referral to the UN Security Council, and pushed for a decision today, when the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency reconvenes.

Iran increased its own pressure against referral, threatening to restart uranium enrichment -- a possible pathway to nuclear arms, diplomats accredited to the agency told AP. They said Iran also warned it could block access for inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had agreed to under a document that Iran has not yet ratified.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity because their information was confidential, said both threats were contained in unsigned letters and shown by a member of the Iranian delegation to the IAEA head, Mohamed Elbaradei.

If signed and submitted, the letters become part of the official record.

The EU motion -- a draft resolution to the IAEA's board of governors -- calls on the 35-nation board to consider reporting Iran to the council. As grounds, it mentions noncompliance with provisions of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and suspicions that Iran's nuclear activities could threaten international peace and security, according to a draft copy obtained by the AP.

Any resolution still must be accepted by the board before it has validity. The board agreed to reconvene today, and the Europeans, backed by the Americans and their allies, were expected to call then for approval by consensus or, if that proved impossible, for a vote.

The board normally makes decisions by consensus, but the divisive nature of the draft was expected to result in a vote, which the Europeans were expected to win against Iran's allies at the IAEA.

The Security Council could impose sanctions if it determines that Iran violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but veto-carrying council members Russia and China -- which oppose even referral to the council -- were certain to vote against such action.

Still, it was unequivocal in saying that unless Iran ends uranium conversion and clears up questions remaining about its past nuclear activities, the grounds exist for Security Council referral.

Failure to comply with the nonproliferation treaty is automatic grounds for a report to the Security Council under IAEA rules, and the draft said ''Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations . . . constitute noncompliance."

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