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U.S., Europe At Odds Over Iran’s Nuclear Program

Colin Powell told reporters in Brussels, ”The fact of the matter is that Iran has been in non-compliance” with its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty after what he called a “very candid discussion” with European Union foreign ministers.

Powell criticized a draft resolution circulated by Britain, France and Germany for its soft stance on Iran’s failure to fully report its nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency.

The IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors meets Thursday to discuss a report on Iran’s 18-year concealment of the full extent of its nuclear program.

“We have some reservations about the resolution drafted that we have seen, and we’ll be in discussion with our EU colleagues and other members of the IAEA as to whether or not the resolution is strong enough to convey to the world the difficulties we’ve had with Iran over the years,” Powell said at a news conference in Brussels Tuesday.

However, Powell acknowledged that Iran appeared to be making some progress in cooperating with the IAEA and meeting international demands on its nuclear program.

“I am pleased that Iran seems to be moving in the right direction now but we can’t be satisfied until Iran has demonstrated that all the programs it had been pursuing have now been made known to the international community and they are now being brought to a halt,” Powell said.

Powell was expected to seek support from European leaders for an IAEA resolution that would declare Iran in non-compliance and refer it to the U.N. Security Council to face possible sanctions.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for entirely civilian and peaceful purposes, but admits it failed to disclose uranium enrichment activities and plants.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Monday stated that Iran had been honest about its nuclear program, and commended Europe’s policy of “constructive engagement” with Iran.

But Powell said he disagreed with Solana’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear intentions, reiterating the U.S. belief that Iran seeks to produce nuclear weapons.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who met with Secretary Powell Monday in Washington, D.C., presented Europe’s case for “constructive engagement” with Iran. Fischer also argued for allowing Iran the opportunity to cooperate with the IAEA before reporting the country to the U.N. Security Council.

“As long as they are in full compliance, we should keep it inside the IAEA, and at the moment I am optimistic about the progress we have made,” Fischer said.

The IAEA said last week it had “no evidence” that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, though it was still uncertain whether Iran was experimenting with uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. The board is expected on Thursday to decide whether to hold Iran in non-compliance and report the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which could lead to sanctions.