Nuclear watchdog delays Iran vote
The world's nuclear watchdog has deferred until Saturday a vote on whether to report Iran to the UN Security Council over concerns its nuclear programs may produce weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors began debate on Thursday on a U.S.-backed resolution sponsored by Britain, France and Germany to send Iran to the council. It had been expected to make its decision on Friday.
However, diplomats announced in the afternoon that the vote would be postponed, to give European Union representatives more time to lobby developing countries to act on the resolution rather than abstain.
Along with the European countries and the United States, China and Russia have agreed to back the resolution to send Iran to the Security Council, as long as Iran is given two months to comply with IAEA demands. Countries believed to oppose the resolution are Cuba, Venezuela and Spain.
Western nations are concerned Iran's uranium enrichment program could give the country technology to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains the program is to produce energy.
Iran has threatened to curb its co-operation with the IAEA's nuclear monitoring activity and speed up nuclear development if it is referred to the council, which could impose economic sanctions on the Islamic republic.
"I am afraid to warn you that if (EU powers) want to put pressure on the board to report the issue to the Security Council, it would be the final blow," Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said in a letter to the IAEA that was made available to the Associated Press.
Iran has also said it will not consider a proposal to move its uranium enrichment program to Russia â a compromise offered by Moscow last month â if it is sent to the council.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has called the situation "critical" but not yet a "crisis."