The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a resolution that reaffirms U.S. efforts to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and says containment of a nuclear-capable Iran is not an option.
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By a vote of 90-1 early Saturday, the Senate backed the nonbinding measure that specifically states that it should not be interpreted as an authorization for the use of military force or a declaration of war.
Passage of the resolution comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pressed Washington to spell out what would provoke a U.S.-led military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The Senate acted in the final hours before Congress broke for its weekslong recess.
The measure was introduced months ago by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman. It endorses continued economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran until it agrees to suspension of its uranium enrichment program in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, cooperates with international inspectors and reaches a permanent agreement that its program is for peaceful purposes.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who cast the only "no" vote, had spoken out against the resolution as an excuse for the use of military force.
Congress has passed, and President Barack Obama has signed, tough sanctions on Iran to limit its oil sales, hamper its economy and make it difficult for Tehran to finance its uranium enrichment program.
Iranian IAEA proposal
Meanwhile, on Saturday Western states defeated an Iranian proposal at the UN nuclear agency's annual assembly to amend their draft resolution on a policy area central to its work in preventing the spread of atom bombs.
The draft text was adopted in a vote shortly after midnight after days of closed-door negotiations failed to achieve the traditional consensus, with divisions between a small number of countries led by Iran and a much larger Western-dominated group.
Diplomats said Iran and Egypt had wanted to include language in the resolution suggesting the UN agency should have a role also in nuclear disarmament, apparently reflecting frustration on their part at the lack of faster progress on this issue.
This was opposed by a large majority including the United States, Britain, France and Russia - four officially recognized nuclear weapon states - which believe the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is not the right forum for this, they said.
The annual General Conference of the 155 IAEA member states traditionally adopts several resolutions, setting out general and often vaguely worded policy aspirations and guidelines, during a week-long meeting in Vienna.
Last year, the gathering failed to agree the resolution on "strengthening the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of the safeguards system" submitted by some 30 Western states.
This year, Iran said a paragraph saying IAEA "safeguards are a fundamental component of nuclear non-proliferation" should be amended to add "and nuclear disarmament." This was rejected by 55 votes against and nine for. The resolution then passed by 89 for, no vote against and 16 abstentions, including Iran.
Several countries, including South Africa and Brazil, stressed their support for nuclear disarmament even though they voted against the Iranian proposal.