Officials warned Iran may abandon a treaty banning

the spread of nuclear weapons.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Pressure grew on Iran Saturday to accept an October deadline to prove its nuclear programs are peaceful, after Russia joined the West in urging Tehran to abide by it.

Iran’s chief delegate stormed out of a meeting of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors on Friday after it passed a resolution with the October timeframe and other demands. Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Iran and is considered to hold some sway over its decisions on nuclear policy.

Still, Iran remained defiant. Ali Akbar Salehi, the chief Iranian delegate to the IAEA, was quoted Saturday as warning that his country might quit the treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons.

Salehi was cited by the online version of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. It did not say when the interview was conducted, but the comments appeared to be from last week, while the board conference was being held.

Trying to prevent the resolution containing the deadline from passing, Iranian officials had warned that the measure could backfire without going into specifics. Before walking out of the board meeting in protest Friday, Salehi had told delegates his country would “have no choice but to have a deep review of our existing level and extent of engagement with the agency.”

Salehi told Der Spiegel that if tensions with the IAEA increased it was possible that Tehran would “completely end cooperation” with the agency and “maybe pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty.”

Moscow, which had opposed the deadline but joined other nations on the 35-member board in accepting the resolution without a vote, urged Iran to abide by the terms spelled out in the document.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said the resolution “is not an ultimatum; it is a serious and respectful call by the agency for cooperation between Iran and the IAEA,” the Interfax news agency reported Saturday.

If the next board meeting in November determines that Iran’s failure to comply with the deadline and other resolution provisions amounts to failure to comply with the Nonproliferation Treaty, it will be reported to the U.N. Security Council. There, reaction could range from formal criticism to economic sanctions.

The resolution, submitted by Australia, Canada and Japan, called on Iran to “provide accelerated cooperation” with agency efforts to clear up questions about Tehran’s nuclear program.

It also urged Iran to “ensure there are no further failures” in reporting obligations and called on it to “suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material” into a facility where U.N. nuclear agency inspectors found traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium.

The United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of working on a secret nuclear weapons program.

An IAEA report to the board noted that traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium were found at an Iranian nuclear facility, and said tests run by Iran make little sense unless the country is pursuing nuclear weaponry.

Tehran insists its nuclear programs are designed to generate electricity and that its equipment was “contaminated” with enriched uranium by a previous owner.

Kislyak said the resolution had “the aim of removing all remaining questions the agency has with regard to the peaceful nuclear programs of Iran,” Interfax reported. He said “it is in the interest of Iran to remove these questions and thus confirm the peaceful character of its nuclear programs.”

On the Net:

Der Spiegel:

AP-ES-09-13-03 1858EDT

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