* Iran, Egypt wanted language on nuclear disarmament
* Recognised nuclear weapon states, others opposed this
* Debate highlighted divisions on key IAEA activity
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA, Sept 22 Western states defeated an
Iranian proposal at the U.N. nuclear agency's annual assembly on
Saturday to amend their draft resolution on a policy area
central to its work in preventing the spread of atom bombs.
The draft text was adopted in a vote shortly after midnight
after days of closed-door negotiations failed to achieve the
traditional consensus, with divisions between a small number of
countries led by Iran and a much larger Western-dominated group.
Diplomats said Iran and Egypt had wanted to include language
in the resolution suggesting the U.N. agency should have a role
also in nuclear disarmament, apparently reflecting frustration
on their part at the lack of faster progress on this issue.
This was opposed by a large majority including the United
States, Britain, France and Russia - four officially recognised
nuclear weapon states - which believe the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) is not the right forum for this, they said.
The West accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons
capability in secret. The Islamic Republic denies the charge.
Tehran often hits out at the United States over its atomic
arsenal, and also criticises Iran's arch foe, Israel, and that
country's assumed nuclear weapons.
The annual General Conference of the 155 IAEA member states
traditionally adopts several resolutions, setting out general
and often vaguely worded policy aspirations and guidelines,
during a week-long meeting in Vienna.
As in 2011, the most contentious issue was a text regarding
the IAEA's activities in seeking to make sure nuclear material
is not diverted for non-peaceful purposes, a crucial task for
the U.N. agency under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Last year, the gathering failed to agree the resolution on
"strengthening the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of
the safeguards system" submitted by some 30 Western states.
Safeguards refer to measures undertaken by U.N. inspectors
to discover any attempt by non-nuclear weapons states to use
atomic technology or material for developing weapons - for
example regular visits and camera surveillance of sites.
This year, Iran said a paragraph saying IAEA "safeguards are
a fundamental component of nuclear non-proliferation" should be
amended to add "and nuclear disarmament." This was rejected by
55 votes against and nine for. The resolution then passed by 89
for, no vote against and 16 abstentions, including Iran.
Several countries, including South Africa and Brazil,
stressed their support for nuclear disarmament even though they
voted against the Iranian proposal.
Under the NPT, a 1970 pact, the five recognised atomic bomb
"haves" agreed to work toward eliminating their nuclear weapons,
and the "have-nots" pledged not to pursue them.
Critics say there has been more emphasis on meeting the
non-proliferation goal than getting the five major powers - the
United States, China, Russia, France and Britain - to fulfil
their part of the deal.