by MONITOR
THE 35-member of the board of the International Atomic Energy Authority yesterday delayed a decision about the resolution on Iran's nuclear plans proposed by the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. A decision may be taken today; the line-up of sponsoring states is impressive and reflects an international concern that Iran is being less than honest about its intentions and is, anyway, a devious negotiating partner. The resolution states: “We call on Iran to understand that the board (of IAEA) lacks confidence in its intentions in seeking to develop a fissile material production capacity against the background of Iran's record on safeguards.” The stilted wording of this resolution and its lack of any action point probably reflects long hours spent persuading Russia and China to be among its sponsors. If it is passed and forwarded to the Security Council, as is the intention, it is difficult to see what more that body could do with it beyond “taking note”. It is also difficult to understand why its sponsors want the resolution passed now when the definitive statement on Iranian compliance with IAEA rules is due to be made by the Agency's director Mohammad ElBaradei in March. It is not as if Iran will have a nuclear weapon at its disposal next week; the US intelligence chief John Negroponte told a Senate committee this week that Iran probably does not yet have the means to make a nuclear bomb. If Mr ElBaradei gives a negative report on his Agency's assessment of Iran's intentions, that would seem a much better point from which to launch UN Security Council action, for instance through sanctions or by other means. For the moment the pressure for an early resolution is uncomfortably reminiscent of the pressure put on Dr Hans Blix, the UN's chief weapons inspector, by the United States, to produce a final report on Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction when he needed, but was refused, more time to produce it.