- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

12:15 p.m.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Iran continues to defy U.N. Security Council demands to scrap its uranium enrichment program and has instead expanded its activities, the International Atomic Energy Agency said today in a finding that sets the stage for new council sanctions.

The report from Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, also faulted Tehran for blocking IAEA efforts to investigate suspicious nuclear activities, saying that meant it could not “provide assurances about … the exclusively peaceful nature” of its atomic program.

Also, in new and worrying phrasing, it expressed concern about its “deteriorating” understanding of unexplored aspects of the program, despite four years of a probe sparked by revelations that Tehran had been clandestinely developing enrichment and other nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons for nearly two decades.

The report, one of a series keeping the IAEA’s 35-nation board and the Security Council up to date on the agency’s monitoring efforts, was posted simultaneously on the internal IAEA Web site and handed over to the president of the Security Council for distribution among its members.

Though the report finding that Iran was expanding enrichment instead of curtailing it was not surprising, it was important as a trigger for possible new U.N. sanctions, the third since the first were imposed Dec. 23.

With the council’s latest deadline for Iranian compliance ending tomorrow, the report could set the stage within days for consultations on new council penalties.

A senior U.N. diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the report, suggested that the shrinking hole left for inspections by Iran’s rollback of previous monitoring agreements was potentially as worrying as its defiance on enrichment.

The brevity of the four-page report indirectly reflected the lack of progress agency inspectors had made clearing up unresolved issues. Among them are Iran’s possession of diagrams showing how to form uranium into warhead form, unexplained uranium contamination at a research facility, information on high explosive experiments that could be linked to a nuclear program, and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle.

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