- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

The United States intends to act next month to have the United Nations impose penalties on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a State Department official said yesterday.

“They will be well-deserved,” Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns told reporters. “It’s not a mystery to the Iranians what is going to happen.”

U.S. officials did not specify the proposed punishment.

Iran also supports Hezbollah as well as other terrorist organizations and has played a destabilizing role in the Middle East, said department spokesman Tom Casey.

The Security Council has said Iran faces penalties if it does not suspend uranium enrichment, an important step in making nuclear weapons.

Iran has until the end of the month for an official response. Tehran also had said it would reply by Tuesday to a proposal by the United States and the European Union offering concessions, including Washington’s supplying of some civilian nuclear energy.

Some critics urged the Bush administration to get on with negotiations with Iran.

A group of 22 former military officials and retired diplomats said President Bush immediately should open discussions. Yesterday’s letter also cautioned against considering the use of military force.

“An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region and U.S. forces in Iraq, and it would inflame hatred and violence in the Middle East and among Muslims everywhere,” the letter said.

Iran contends its enrichment and other nuclear programs are civilian in nature.

“We certainly want to give the Iranians the chance to take this last opportunity to accept the offer that is on the table,” Mr. Casey said.

Mr. Burns said the United States wants to move quickly next month on the proposed U.N. penalties. He said the role of Iran in the Middle East has raised concerns among Arab and other countries about Tehran’s intentions.

“There is broadened concern about the policy of a country that flexes its muscles,” he said. “Iran wants to be the dominant country in the region.”

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