- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The U.S. government is pressing the United Nations’ atomic watchdog to take action on what Washington believes are violations by Iran of the treaty on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, administration sources said yesterday.

Should the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) establish there is credible information that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, the consequences to Tehran could be international economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

The only countries ever to be found in violation of the treaty are Iraq and North Korea. If a similar determination were made in the case of Iran, U.S. officials would expect at least a meeting of the U.N. Security Council similar to the one held last month to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The sources said U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Brill, in a closed-door meeting of IAEA’s board of governors on March 17, formally requested that the agency’s Director General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a report by June 16 on whether Iran’s nuclear-power program is directed only to peaceful purposes.

U.S. intelligence agencies have compiled new evidence in the past year indicating Iran is closer to developing nuclear weapons than earlier thought. Some U.S. analysts and outside experts predict Tehran will be able to produce weapons-grade material on a regular basis by late 2005.

“For a long time the U.S. government has had intelligence indicating that Iran indeed is seeking nuclear weapons,” Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation in the Clinton administration, said earlier this week. “This would be the first time the international organization charged with monitoring Iran’s performance would raise questions about Iran’s intentions.”

John Wolf, the present assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, also met with Mr. ElBaradei on Wednesday in Geneva to press the case against Iran.

“Despite professions of transparency and peaceful intent, Iran is going down the same path of denial and deception that handicapped international inspections in North Korea and Iraq,” he said Monday to a gathering of diplomats in Geneva.

Earlier in April, Undersecretary of State John Bolton met with Mr. ElBaradei to push for a tough assessment of Iran’s nuclear program.

“We hope the [IAEA] report will be as hard-hitting and thorough as possible,” one senior State Department official said Monday.

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