launched a blistering verbal assault on Canada yesterday for insisting that the Tehran regime meet an Oct. 31 deadline to prove it is not building nuclear weapons.
The tough Canadian resolution was adopted without dissent by the board of a United Nations watchdog agency in Vienna after the Iranian delegation stormed out of the meeting.
The incident sets the stage for a possible confrontation between Iran and the UN Security Council before the end of the year. The council can impose economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iraq if it defies the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"This important resolution sends a firm, clear signal to Iran and the world, and demonstrates widespread concern about Iran's nuclear program," Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said last night in a statement.
Trace particles of highly enriched uranium found by the inspectors this summer at one Iranian site "are deeply disturbing, and show that Iran's nuclear program is a potentially serious threat to regional and international peace and security," he said.
Before the walkout, Iranian envoy Ali Akbar Salehi said the Islamic republic expects the U.S. administration to "spin the facts, deceive and lie" in an effort to portray Iran as a nuclear security threat.
"What surprises us is to see some others, such as Canada, which is known for its principled stance on international issues, to stain its credibility" by adopting the U.S. line and introducing the resolution, he said.
Canada's traditional even-handed approach on nuclear non-proliferation issues has been abandoned, Mr. Salehi continued. "Gone is the sense of balance that depicts logic and wisdom."
He said Canada is showing "stubborn silence" regarding the rights of countries such as Iran to develop peaceful nuclear programs.
The Canadian resolution, co-sponsored by Australia and Japan, is a minor variant on the hawkish U.S. position, Mr. Salehi said. "The approach . . . language and venom have remained the same."
He said Iran is going to conduct a "deep review" of its future co-operation with the IAEA.
IAEA inspectors were scheduled to return to Iran next week to examine centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium to weapons grade. That is now up in the air.
"We don't know what the Iranians mean by a 'deep review.' We don't know where we stand," IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said.
"We hope at the end of their review they will continue to co-operate. . . ." he added.
If Iran suspends inspections it should be interpreted as an admission that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Brill said.
Washington had been pushing last week for an immediate declaration by the 35-nation IAEA board that Iran is already in "non-compliance" with its inspection obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Canada was prepared to support the United States, but many other countries wanted to give Iran more time.
The final resolution submitted by Canada sets an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to clear up ambiguities about its nuclear program.
Iran says it is building nuclear facilities only for electrical power generation and other peaceful purposes.
It says the trace particles of highly enriched uranium found this summer are residue from equipment Iran imported from another unnamed country that is believed by some experts to be China.
One of the big surprises of the day was the overwhelming support for the Canadian resolution, diplomats say.
Russia, which has openly been selling nuclear technology to Iran for years, did not object to the resolution.
France and Germany, which had split with the U.S. earlier this year on whether to give weapons inspectors more time in Iraq, agreed to the Oct. 31 deadline for Iran.
The board adopted the Oct. 31 deadline without even a formal vote in "as near a consensus as you can get," one source said.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, said the resolution sends "a very powerful message to Iran that they need to co-operate fully and immediately and to show complete transparency."