Diplomats: Iran Seeks Seat on Board of U.N. Nuclear Agency

September 23, 2010 - 8:39 AM

Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at a summit on the Millennium Development Goals at United Nations headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Aaron Jackson)

Vienna (AP) - Iran is seeking a seat on the decision-making board of the same U.N. nuclear agency probing its activities for evidence that Tehran may be interested in making atomic weapons, officials said Thursday.

While Iran has sought such a position previously, it had always withdrawn its candidates well before the 151 members of the International Atomic Energy Agency approve members for the agency's 35-nation board.

Diplomats and other government officials, however, told The Associated Press just hours before the issue was to be taken up Thursday that Iran's hat remained in the ring. They and an Iranian official who confirmed that Iran remained in the running, asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

A seat for Iran would give it a stronger lobbying platform on its file as well as voting rights on resolutions of the kind that sent Tehran's file to the Security Council.

Iran insists it does not seek atomic weapons but has been under IAEA investigation since revelations of secret nuclear activities eight years ago. Iran is under four sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to stop uranium enrichment -- a pathway both to nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material -- and other actions that have raised concerns about its ultimate goals.

The IAEA board peruses Iran's activities four times a year and set into motion U.N. Security Council involvement -- and ultimately U.N. sanctions -- by referring Tehran to the council for its nuclear defiance four years ago.

Eleven seats were to be decided on Thursday, including two regional seats contested by Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. One of the diplomats said Iran had sent letters to many IAEA members asking for support, a reflection of its determination to get a board seat.

The board membership agenda item was postponed for later Thursday shortly to allow the three nations to talk about which would withdraw. If there was no agreement, the full IAEA general assembly planned a vote to eliminate one of the contestants.