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Latest update : 2009-11-28

The International Atomic Energy Agency's governing body voted on Friday to censure Iran for developing a secret uranium enrichment site. Hours later the White House warned Tehran that the world's patience was "limited".

AFP - US and international patience over Iran's nuclear program is "limited," the White House said Friday, hours after the International Atomic Energy Agency censured Tehran.

"Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a stern warning to Tehran.

"If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences."

Washington welcomed the UN atomic watchdog's adoption of a resolution censuring

Iran over its nuclear program and demanding it halt construction at a newly-revealed enrichment plant.

With 25 nations of the IAEA's 35-member board of governors approving the resolution, the first of its kind against Iran since February 2006, Gibbs said the outcome "shows the urgent need for Iran to address the growing international deficit of confidence in its intentions."

The "overwhelming" vote "underscores broad consensus in calling upon Iran to live up to its international obligations and offer transparency in its nuclear program," he added.

The resolution "sends a strong signal of serious international concern about Iran's continued non-compliance to its obligations both to the IAEA and to the UN Security Council," a senior State Department official said earlier.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the vote was the outcome of "intensive American diplomatic efforts," including "a lot of very high-level work over recent weeks."

China and Russia joined forces with Britain, France, Germany and the United States to approve the resolution at the IAEA's board of governors meeting in Vienna. Only Venezuela, Malaysia and Cuba voted against the motion.

Western powers have long suspected Iran is seeking to develop an atomic bomb under the cover of its civilian nuclear energy program, but have struggled to secure diplomatic support from China and Russia for sanctions or additional pressure on Tehran.

Efforts to negotiate a halt to Iran's nuclear enrichment, coordinated through the so-called P5+1 consisting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council --- the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- plus Germany have floundered.

But Gibbs noted that Washington has "strongly supported" an IAEA-brokered deal under which Russia would lead a consortium that would enrich uranium for Iran to use in a medical research reactor.

The US official insisted the proposal "is still on the table, but time is running short." Tehran's envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh had earlier said the Islamic republic would also consider "other options" to get fuel.

"The United States has recognized Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy and remains willing to engage Iran to work toward a diplomatic solution to the concerns about its nuclear program, if -- and only if -- Iran chooses such a course," Gibbs stressed.

Friday's vote came after the revelation in September that Iran, far from halting enrichment, had secretly been constructing a new uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom.

The State Department official said the censure was "significant because it underscores the unity of purpose" among the P5+1 group, recalling that US President Barack Obama had held talks in recent weeks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also placed more than a dozen telephone calls in the last couple of days, according to the official.

The IAEA resolution calls on Iran to "suspend immediately" construction at the Qom site and to explain the plant's purpose and the chronology of its construction.

It pressed Tehran to confirm it "has not taken a decision to construct, or authorize construction of, any other nuclear facility which has as yet not been declared to the agency."

Date created : 2009-11-27

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