- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The Bush administration, citing the latest U.N. report on Iran’s nuclear program, said yesterday it would prod other nations to take “appropriate action” against Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons.

“Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and its now well-documented pattern of nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguard violations are deeply troubling,” said a senior State Department official. “The report reinforces our concerns.”

“The United States will work with other IAEA board members to ensure that the Nov. 20 board meeting in Vienna takes the appropriate action,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The comments came a week before a crucial session of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is to decide whether to refer Iran’s nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council.

“Iran has no peaceful need for uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing,” the official said.

The IAEA, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, circulated a new report on Monday that concluded Iran had made small amounts of enriched uranium and processed plutonium, in violation of international conventions.

Uranium or plutonium can be used to build atomic bombs.

The report also detailed decades of Iranian subterfuge and secrecy regarding its program. However, the report found no evidence that Iran was trying to build nuclear weapons.

Michael Levi, a physicist and nuclear-weapons expert at the Brookings Institution, said the IAEA finding that there is no evidence of an Iranian weapons program is a “red herring.”

“The difference between civilian nuclear material and material for a nuclear-weapons program is largely one of intent. The IAEA is not in the business of assessing intent,” he said. “We’ve pretty much reached the end of the road scientifically, technically. It is now up to the policy-makers to determine intent.”

Mr. Levi said that the report reached two conclusions: first, that Iran has enriched uranium and processed plutonium in violation of international accords, and second, Iran has engaged in two decades of “systematic deception and illegal activity.”

The United States has been pushing for months to refer the Iran nuclear matter to the U.N. Security Council, where Iran could face sanctions.

Iran is loath to come under the kinds of international sanctions that crippled Iraq, especially since the hard-line Islamic government is facing enormous pressure for democratic reform from its population.

On Oct. 21, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain cut a deal in which Iran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment program and to sign a protocol allowing intrusive international inspections on short notice.

On Monday, coinciding with the IAEA report, Tehran said it had fulfilled its promises.

If Iran is found in noncompliance by the IAEA board of governors at the Nov. 20 meeting, the problem would be automatically referred to the United Nations.

“We will be consulting intensively in the coming weeks with other members of the board to ensure that the board takes decisive action aimed at ensuring full Iranian compliance with its safeguards obligations,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said last week, in anticipation of the IAEA report.

But some analysts say that the Oct. 21 deal made with the three European nations makes a finding of noncompliance unlikely.

There was no official reaction from Germany, Britain or France to the report yesterday. However, the foreign ministers of the three nations plan to speak in a conference call in the next few days regarding the Iran report, according to a German government official.

Marc Hujer contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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