VIENNA - An Iranian attempt to ban attacks on nuclear sites suffered a setback on Wednesday when fellow developing nations declined as a bloc to endorse a draft resolution, diplomats said.
Israel has not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities, which Tehran says are part of a civilian energy program but which the West fears are developing atomic weapons.
An Iranian draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, declares that any attack on a nuclear plant in operation or being built to be a violation of international law.
It urges states to aid any attacked country and others hit by radioactive fallout and asks the International Atomic Energy Agency to pursue a legally binding ban on attacks or even threats of attacks on nuclear facilities.
The Islamic Republic had been due to submit the resolution at the U.N. nuclear watchdog's 150-nation general assembly later this week, with a simple majority required for passage.
But a senior diplomat in the Non-Aligned Movement of 118 developing nations, to which Iran belongs, said it was possible Tehran would withdraw the measure after failing to win a NAM endorsement as a bloc in a meeting outside the assembly.
Iran diplomats could not immediately be reached for comment.
Diplomats said Chile and Singapore blocked a NAM consensus in favor of Iran's measure, leaving its member nations to vote individually as they pleased, which raised uncertainty whether the measure would pass given opposition among developed nations.
Singapore and Chile insisted any such ban be limited to peaceful nuclear facilities verified to be peaceful in nature.
Israel and Western IAEA member states regarded Iran's move as a maneuver to steer the spotlight away from its disputed nuclear activities, rather than real concern about safety and security of nuclear sites.
Iran says it is enriching uranium only for electricity and but has refused to lift restrictions on IAEA inspections or open up to a U.N. watchdog probe into allegations of covert atomic bomb research.
However, Iran has just agreed to October 1 talks with world powers after long dodging feelers for negotiations.
While NAM as a group emphasizes Iran's right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop a civilian atomic program, some members have private misgivings about Iran's behavior and believe it must open up to the IAEA to defuse mistrust.
IAEA member states have passed several non-binding resolutions, the latest in 1990 and also proposed by Iran, which ban any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities.
But Iran says tougher, legally binding action was now needed because Israel had broken such bans in the past.
In 1981, an Israeli air strike destroyed Iraq's only nuclear reactor. Two years ago, Israel bombed a site in Syria that U.S. intelligence officials said was a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor under construction. Syria denies this.
NAM diplomats said Iran's proposal was well-intentioned in principle but it would have been more broadly palatable if, say, Egypt or a Western country, had sponsored it.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)