Iran spurns compromise to unblock atom pact talks
( Reuters ) - The head of a global meeting on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that has been stymied by Iranian objections offered a compromise on Friday to break the impasse, but Tehran said the gesture was not good enough.
Iran has blocked the required consensus for the agenda of the meeting that is meant to draft priorities for reinforcing the 130-nation treaty, arguing that the text would unfairly single it out as the main threat to the treaty's integrity.
The deadlock has jeopardized chances of agreeing priorities for repairing the treaty before the Vienna gathering, one of several before the next decision-making NPT Review Conference in 2010, winds up on May 11.
The NPT binds members without nuclear bombs not to acquire them, guarantees the right of all members to nuclear energy for peaceful ends, and commits the original five nuclear powers from the post-World War Two era to phase out their arsenals.
Iran says Western fears that it harbors a secret atomic bomb project are unfounded, saying it is enriching uranium for electricity.
But the U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on it for refusing to suspend the program, hiding nuclear research in the past and stonewalling U.N. inquiries now.
Iran has protested at wording inserted into the agenda at the behest of Western powers stipulating the NPT meeting focus on "reaffirming the need for full compliance" with the treaty.
To defuse the dispute, Yukiya Amano, Japanese chairman of the meeting, offered an attachment to the agenda saying that compliance denotes "compliance with all provisions" of the NPT.
That was a clear nod to the view of developing nations in the Non-Aligned Movement, to which Iran belongs, that debate must not give short shrift to the slowness of nuclear weapons powers to honor NPT pledges to phase out their arsenals.
"All provisions" would also cover a 1995 pledge, so far unfulfilled, by nuclear powers to push for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East by pressing Israel to dismantle its undeclared atomic arsenal and join the NPT.
Amano urged the gathering to embrace his "clarification" and with it adopt the agenda by the end of the day, then adjourned the meeting until 1500 GMT.
Iran's chief envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Amano's move was welcome but did not go far enough.
"It is a confession that our concern about imbalance is an important issue. But this proposal (not rewording the agenda itself), is not enough. It doesn't work," he told reporters.
Amano has refused to rework the agenda text, drafted after months of broad consultations.