VIENNA -- The UN nuclear watchdog agency effectively agreed yesterday to deny Iran technical help in building a plutonium-producing reactor but left room for Tehran to renew its request in two years, diplomats said.
A committee of the International Atomic Energy Agency forwarded a summary of three days of deliberations on 832 requests for technical aid to the full board, scheduled to meet today.
That gathering was expected to waive a decision on Tehran's request for aid for its Arak reactor. That, in effect, would deny IAEA money for Arak -- at least for the next two years, after which new requests would be considered.
The two diplomats -- from countries on opposing sides of the issue -- had different interpretations of what the expected ruling would mean, reflecting the depth of the dispute. Both demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the topic with the media.
A European diplomat said the tentative agreement effectively meant that Iran's request was turned down. Another diplomat, from a developing nation, said it meant that the issue remained on the table because it could be revisited. "It certainly is not denied," he said.
The committee summary noted that "several members expressed the need for caution regarding technical cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Gregory L. Schulte, the chief US representative to the IAEA, said the United States had no choice but to oppose aid to Arak, given past calls by the board for the project to be stopped, "the widespread distrust of Iran's nuclear program and the risk of plutonium [being] diverted from this reactor for use in a weapon."
The full board also will hear a report today on the latest stage of a nearly four-year IAEA investigation of Iran's nuclear activities.
That report essentially says the agency has been unable to make headway in determining whether suspicions that Tehran is interested in making nuclear weapons are well founded. Schulte said the report also shows that "the mistrust of Iran is only growing as Iran fails to cooperate with the IAEA."