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IAEA steps up pressure on Iran with condemnation of its nuclear defiance

Russia and China – reversing earlier stances –  joined today in the IAEA's near-unanimous vote expressing 'serious concern' over Iran's nuclear program.

By Staff writer / September 13, 2012

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano attends a news conference during a board of governors meeting at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna Monday. The 35-member governing board of the IAEA voted nearly unanimously Thursday to condemn Iran over its nuclear program.

Herwig Prammer/Reuters

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Istanbul, Turkey

The board of the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna voted nearly unanimously today to condemn Iran over its nuclear program, with the US and Western allies bringing Russia and China on board.

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The 35-member governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed "serious concern that Iran continues to defy" UN Security Council sanctions that require a halt to enrichment, and the resolution of outstanding questions about possible nuclear weapons-related work. 

The participation of Russia and China – which have shielded Iran from sanctions in the past – adds further pressure on Iran, but may have been more aimed at showing Israel that there is big-power unity behind a diplomatic, not military, solution to curb Iran's nuclear progress.

Still, compromise language meant to bring Russia and China along meant the text also supported the "inalienable right" of all signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes – a key inclusion for Iran.

Only Cuba voted against this 12th IAEA resolution in a decade, with three countries abstaining. Universal big-power support was seen as critical by diplomats to convince Israel to allow diplomatic efforts to continue, instead of launching strikes in a bid to stop Iran's nuclear work

Stalled negotiations

The IAEA board resolution is the latest twist of Iran's nuclear saga. Negotiations between Iran and world powers have stalled after three rounds this year; UN, US, and EU sanctions have choked Iran's oil exports and business dealings.

And Canada last week withdrew its envoys from Tehran and closed the Iranian embassy on its soil, claiming the Islamic Republic to be the "most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."

"This year, now, the Iranians are under pressure," says Shahram Chubin, a Geneva-based Iran specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, contacted in Paris.

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