The new U.S.-backed European offer was contained in a text that backs off threats of immediate referral by only implicitly warning Tehran of referral at a later date. The previous EU draft resolution — which diplomats said also remained on the table — called on the 35 nations on the IAEA board to report Iran to the U.N.'s highest decision-making body during the current session.
Diplomats familiar with the West's strategy said the Europeans were keeping both options alive, urging the more than dozen board members opposed to referral to accept the toned-down version or to face the prospect of having the board vote on the earlier hard-line text.
While not directly asking for Security Council referral, the new text finds Iran in noncompliance of commitments to the IAEA that would normally warrant such action.
And it holds out the threat of future referral, saying the next board meeting "will address the timing and content" of a new IAEA report on Iran's nuclear activities to see if it gives reason to decide Iran is still violating agency rules that mandate hauling violators before the council.
The earlier draft requests directly that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei report to the Security Council "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The draft also asks the council to expand the IAEA's inspection powers in Iran and to request that Tehran resume a recently broken freeze on activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process that can lead to the making of nuclear weapons.
The decision to offer a toned-down text delaying any decision on referral to a later board meeting appeared driven by concerns about strong opposition. More than a dozen of the 35 IAEA board member nations meeting in Vienna, including Security Council members Russia and China, are against the idea.
Still, a senior diplomat from a nonaligned country opposed to referral said the new draft — and its strong language on Iran's nuclear program — would likely be unacceptable to many who opposed the earlier version.
It accuses Iran of "excessive concealment, misleading information and delays" in giving IAEA experts probing its program information and access to nuclear materials as they look for signs that Tehran's might be hiding a nuclear weapons program.