By GEORGE JAHN
VIENNA, Austria - The European Union will support U.S. calls to bring Tehran before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions unless it agrees to scrap the technology that can be used to make nuclear arms, according to a document obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
If Iran does not agree, ``We shall have no choice but to support referring Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council,'' said the confidential EU document on the state of negotiations on uranium enrichment between Iran, Germany, France and Britain.
The five-page document, which is meant to update EU countries on the talks, says that - while the negotiations ``are moving in the right direction'' on some side issues - stark differences persist on the main issue, which is Iran's enrichment program.
``Both sides have strongly held positions on this difficult issue, which remains at the core of negotiations,'' according to the document.
A Western diplomat familiar with the talks confirmed the two sides remained deadlocked. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Europeans are demanding that Iran scrap the technology or agree to a permanent freeze, while Tehran continues to insist that it has the right to enrichment, which can be used either to generate power or make the core of nuclear missiles.
The United States has pushed for more than two years to have Iran referred to the Security Council for alleged violations of the Nonproliferation Treaty, arguing nearly two decades of covert activities discovered in 2002 were geared toward making weapons.
However, it has recently agreed to give the Europeans a chance to negotiate the issue with Iran before renewing its demands.
While senior European politicians already have suggested that they would support the U.S. effort to refer Iran to the Security Council if the talks with Iran fail, the language contained in the document obtained Friday was among the clearest statements yet that the 25-nation bloc would back Washington if the present talks fail.
In an apparent concession meant to reward the firm European line, senior U.S. administration officials on Thursday said President Bush was ready to back European offers of modest economic incentives to Iran if it gives up enrichment programs. The United States also agreed not to oppose talks on Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization or to condone the sale of commercial aircraft parts to Tehran, the officials said. It was a policy shift from the hard-line position that Iran deserved no reward for merely doing what an international arms compact requires.
A senior EU diplomat said ``we expect ... a positive answer'' from the Americans as early as later in the day Friday.
The U.S. administration had up to recently opposed any concessions to Iran, which Bush has labeled part of the ``Axis of Evil,'' along with North Korea and prewar Iraq, because of its nuclear program and Tehran's support of militant anti-Israeli groups like Hezbollah.
Iran insists its uranium enrichment program is strictly designed to produce electric power, not weapons but has agreed to suspend further development pending the negotiations with the Europeans. It has, however insisted the freeze would be brief.
Referral to the Security Council could result in economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran.