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EU, Powell clash over Iran, steel trade

Brussels, Nov. 18 (Reuters): US secretary of state Colin Powell and the EU clashed today over how to handle Iran’s nuclear programme, taking the shine off what was billed as a post-Iraq war fence-mending visit to Brussels.

After what he called a “very candid discussion” with EU foreign ministers, Powell said a draft resolution on Iran proposed by the bloc’s three major powers was not tough enough on Tehran’s non-compliance with nuclear treaty obligations.

Along with tension over steel trade and European prisoners held at the US Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba, the divide over how to deal with Iran marred determined efforts by both sides to put months of bitter wrangling over Iraq behind them.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini voiced the EU’s satisfaction that Washington had agreed to quicken the return of sovereignty to Iraq, something many of the bloc’s 15 nations had demanded since the end of the US-led war.

But differences came to the fore over Iran, two days before the UN nuclear watchdog’s board is due to debate a report on that country’s atomic programme.

Powell said he was pleased Iran now seemed to be moving in the right direction in cooperating with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

But he added: “We have some reservations about the resolution drafted that we have seen, and we’ll be in discussion with our EU colleagues and other members of the IAEA as to whether or not the resolution is strong enough to convey to the world the difficulties we’ve had with Iran over the years.

“The fact of the matter is that Iran has been in non-compliance.”

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