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Resolution on Iran nuclear program hailed by US, but lacks teeth

The US lauds the 'unified message' sent by the UN's nuclear watchdog expressing 'deep and increasing concern' over the Iran nuclear program. But the resolution lays no groundwork for action.

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But few diplomatic experts believe that Russia and China – both of which have already rejected the need for additional economic sanctions on Iran – are hinting at any change of heart with their “aye” votes on the IAEA resolution Friday.

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For one thing, the resolution, despite its strong words of concern, does not lay the groundwork for any international action. For example, the IAEA could have referred Iran to the UN Security Council, the international body that can impose punitive measures, but it did not take that step.

Some say the resolution adopted Friday does not even set a deadline for Iran to respond to the IAEA’s concerns, but Mr. Juppé argues that it does. He calls a “clear deadline” the Board of Governors’ directive to the IAEA’s director general, Yukiya Amano, to report back to the Board on Iran’s response at its next meeting in early March.

In comments following adoption of the resolution, Clinton suggested the international community is now expressing unprecedented concern about Iran’s activities. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job bringing the international community to a place that it had never come to before,” she told NBC in an interview.

But she also suggested the reality that any action based on the resolution might be limited to the US and the European Union. “When it comes to sanctions,” she told NBC, “there are more steps that the United States and Europe are probably willing to take than others at this time.”

In a related development Friday, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the assassination plot that the US uncovered recently against the Saudi ambassador to Washington. The White House released a statement praising the "widespread support for this resolution," which it said "sends a strong message to the Iranian government that the international community will not tolerate the targeting of diplomats."

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