The 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was to hold its regular year-end meeting yesterday, with Iran's disputed nuclear drive and the threat of possible renewed UN sanctions topping the agenda.
A number of different topics were scheduled for discussion during the meeting, which is expected to end today.
The IAEA's technical assistance and cooperation (TAC) committee has just wrapped up a three-day meeting of its own, the results of which were be presented to the UN nuclear watchdog's board.
Verification of nuclear activities in countries such as Chad, Mozambique and the Ivory Coast was also be discussed, as was the state of negotiations on North Korea's denuclearization.
The budget and funding of the IAEA's analytical laboratory in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, was also on the agenda, with a recent report by agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei warning that 27.2 million euros (US$40.2 million) needed to be spent there over the next three years.
And a possible India-specific safeguards agreement between the IAEA and New Delhi might also be touched on after India's atomic energy commission chief Anil Kakodkar and ElBaradei formally launched the consultations on Wednesday that are needed for a landmark nuclear deal between India and the US.
However, the most important item on the agenda looked set to be Iran, following a new report by ElBaradei last week on Tehran's controversial atomic program.
The nine-page report found that Iran had cleared up a number of key questions with regard to its nuclear activity in the past. But it warned that the IAEA's knowledge of Tehran's current atomic activities was "diminishing."
In addition, Iran was continuing to defy repeated UN demands that it suspend uranium enrichment. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday insisted again that Tehran would not budge on the matter.
"Iran will not give the slightest concession," Ahmadinejad said.
Given that enrichment is used not only to make nuclear fuel but bombs as well, such remarks have only cemented the belief of the US and many of its European allies that Iran is secretly trying to develop an atomic bomb. Western countries are all the more determined to press ahead with new UN sanctions.
No resolutions will be passed by the IAEA board this time round, diplomats said.
"As far as we're concerned, the next resolution has to be passed in New York, not in Vienna," one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
But the board meeting will provide an opportunity for countries to state their various positions on ElBaradei's report.
"There are some countries who will look at the report and see that the glass is half full rather than half empty," the diplomat said.
While the US has publicly stated that it does not view ElBaradei's findings as "the positive outcome" needed to stave off sanctions, "there are others who welcome what progress they've seen," the diplomat said.
Nevertheless, all of those nations -- even Russia and China who are reluctant to back sanctions -- "still acknowledge that Iran isn't cooperating as much as it should."