Report Sets Stage For Action on Iran

By Molly Moore and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 29, 2006

PARIS, April 28 -- In a sharply worded report, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Friday that Iran is accelerating its uranium enrichment efforts and hiding crucial information about its nuclear program. The report opens the way for the U.N. Security Council to debate potential actions against Iran.

The Vienna-based U.N. nuclear monitoring agency said serious gaps in the information provided by Iran made it impossible "to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities" or to assess the role of the Iranian military in the nuclear work.

The eight-page report provided official evidence that the United States, Britain and France have sought to launch a push for possible sanctions against Iran. But Russia and China, also permanent members of the Security Council, have repeatedly expressed skepticism with that approach.

President Bush said after the report's release that "the world is united and concerned" about Iran's "desire to have not only a nuclear weapon but the capacity to make a nuclear weapon or the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon." He said he hoped for a diplomatic solution.

Iran insists that its program is intended only to generate electricity. In a letter delivered to the IAEA staff on Thursday, Iranian officials said they had complied with many of the agency's requests. "Iran is prepared to resolve the remaining outstanding issues in accordance with the international laws and norms," the letter added. "Iran will provide a timetable within the next three weeks."

But Iranian political leaders' statements have been almost universally confrontational, declaring that the country has a sovereign right to pursue a nuclear program and that international pressure will backfire.

Addressing a rally in northwest Iran shortly before the report was made public, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: "Enemies think that by . . . threatening us, launching psychological warfare or . . . imposing embargos they can dissuade our nation from obtaining nuclear technology. We do not give a damn about such resolutions."

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Wednesday that any military attack on Iran would bring Iranian retaliation against U.S. interests worldwide.

The verbal threats and counter-threats between Washington and Tehran escalated dramatically in recent weeks in anticipation of Friday's report, contributing to the highest oil prices in history and a fall in the value of the dollar against foreign currencies.

Members of the Security Council -- which wanted the IAEA report before it considered action on Iran -- are divided on how best to persuade Tehran to back off from its nuclear program.

China and Russia, which both have veto power on the council by virtue of their permanent seats and also have strong trading relations with Iran, are advocating less-provocative diplomatic efforts.

U.S. and European officials said they hoped to present a legally binding resolution early next week that would require Iran to suspend enriching uranium and increase its cooperation with U.N inspectors.

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