April 28, 2006

IAEA says Iran defies UN demands

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) - The world's nuclear watchdog reported on
Friday that Iran has flouted a U.N. Security Council call to
suspend uranium enrichment, prompting Western powers to urge
tougher U.N. action to curb Tehran's atomic program.

President Bush said he wanted peaceful persuasion to
prevail. His Iranian counterpart vowed earlier to spurn any
U.N. resolution to curb Tehran's nuclear work.

"It's very important for the Iranians to understand there
is a common desire by a lot of nations in this world to
convince them, peacefully convince them, that they ought to
give up their weapons ambitions," Bush said, adding that he
would keep consulting U.S. allies on the issue.

Britain said it would ask the Security Council to increase
pressure on Iran after the report by Mohamed ElBaradei, chief
of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the
council should decide the next step, insisting on a peaceful
way out of a "worrying situation for the international

The council could eventually impose sanctions on Iran,
which has vowed to go on purifying uranium, whatever the

The IAEA also said Iran had pressed ahead with enrichment
during a 30-day grace period and had not answered questions
exploring whether its nuclear program is purely civilian.


However, it noted that Iran promised in a letter received
by the IAEA on Wednesday to provide a timetable within three
weeks on answering such questions. But the letter made this, as
well as continued access for inspectors to declared nuclear
sites, conditional on Iran's nuclear dossier staying with the

This looked like a veiled threat to cut ties with the IAEA
if the Security Council acts. Such a step could signal Iran's
exit from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, diplomats said.

Hours before the IAEA report was circulated, President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would disregard any U.N. measure
to rein in its nuclear program.

"Those who want to prevent Iranians from obtaining their
right, should know that we do not give a damn about such
resolutions," he told a rally in northwest Iran.

The report said IAEA tests confirmed Iran's claim this
month to have enriched uranium with a cascade of 164
centrifuges to the low level needed to fuel nuclear power
plants. It must be purified to a much higher level for

Iran was also building two new cascades of 164 centrifuges
at its underground enrichment plant in Natanz.

"What is relevant is that they got the first 164-centrifuge
cascade up and running and managed to produce low-enriched
uranium," said a senior official versed with the report.

"The 164 centrifuges continue to spin as far as we know,
and they are probably able to repeat the enrichment cycle at
any point in time," said the official, who asked not to be

Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to defy its foes.

"Enemies think that by ... threatening us, launching
psychological warfare or ... imposing embargos they can
dissuade our nation from obtaining nuclear technology," he

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the Security
Council should now send a stronger signal to Tehran.

This week Iran vowed to hit U.S. targets worldwide if
attacked by Washington, which has not ruled out military
options if diplomacy fails to halt what it says is Tehran's
quest for nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is purely


The report said questions persisted over Iranian research
on advanced "P-2" centrifuges, documents on how to design an
atomic bomb core, and intelligence reports of links between
uranium ore processing, high-explosives tests and a missile
warhead design.

"With the information we have we cannot proceed any
further. We are stuck," the senior official said, especially as
Iran had since February refused to let the IAEA conduct
short-notice visits to sites where it suspects undeclared
nuclear activity.

The United States, backed by Britain and France, favors
limited sanctions if Iran refuses to shelve enrichment quickly.

Russia and China, the Security Council's other two
veto-holding permanent members who want to protect lucrative
stakes in Iran's energy sector, have so far opposed such moves.

John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said
the report made clear Iran had not complied with U.N. demands
and said Washington would seek council approval of a resolution
making those demands mandatory under international law.

China's U.N. ambassador Wang Guangya said almost all
council members wanted a diplomatic solution to the Iran

"There are a lot of problems in the region and we should
not do anything that would cause the situation to become even
more complicated," he said when asked if Beijing would now back
sanctions on Iran based on the findings of the IAEA report.

Chinese and U.S. diplomats said the United States was
trying to arrange a meeting on Iran of foreign ministers of the
five permanent council members and Germany in New York on May

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran), Tabassum
Zakaria in Washington, Madeline Chambers in Washington and
Evelyn Leopold and Irwin Arieff in New York)