- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

VIENNA, Austria — The U.N. nuclear watchdog expressed “serious concern” yesterday over Iran’s resumption of nuclear activities that could lead to an atomic bomb, and diplomats said Tehran faced a September deadline to stop uranium conversion at a plant in central Iran.

The Iranians resumed work at the nuclear facility in Isfahan earlier this week, despite appeals from European negotiators to maintain a voluntary suspension of nuclear activities.

Diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted, made it clear that insufficient progress by Sept. 3 could lead the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to consider reporting Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to slap the regime with crippling sanctions.

The 35-nation board of directors of the IAEA adopted a resolution that said, “Outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear program have yet to be resolved.”

But it did not mention reporting the regime to the Security Council amid concerns that such a move could backfire by hardening Iran’s position. Iran already had said it would rather endure sanctions than back down on a program that it calls a matter of national pride.

President Bush, meeting at his Texas ranch with members of his foreign policy team, welcomed the IAEA’s warning to Tehran about the consequences of its nuclear ambitions.

European countries that have led negotiations with Iran said the resolution sent a clear message.

“We still believe there is a nonconfrontational way forward if Iran wants to take it,” Britain’s Foreign Office said.

Iran, which insists that its nuclear program is peaceful and geared only toward producing electricity, was defiant.

“It is evident that the motive is to apply pressure,” said Iran’s chief IAEA delegate, Sirus Nasseri. “Fortunately, Iran will not bend. Iran will be a nuclear fuel producer and supplier within a decade.”

The United States and others contend it is covertly trying to build atomic weapons.

Gregory Schulte, the U.S. envoy to the IAEA, said the adoption of the resolution “shows that the international community is united in its determination that Iran move off the dangerous course that it is on.”

Iranian officials broke the IAEA seals on its uranium-conversion equipment at its nuclear plant at Isfahan on Wednesday and resumed full operation.

The resolution expressed “serious concern” over the regime’s resumption of uranium conversion at its nuclear facility at Isfahan, saying the move “underlines the importance of rectifying the situation … and of allowing for the possibility of further discussions in relation to that situation.”

The board asked IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to provide it with a comprehensive report on Iran’s compliance with an agency safeguards agreement by Sept. 3.

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