- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2008

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — The U.N. nuclear watchdog said yesterday that Iran is defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment and accusing the U.S. and its allies of fabricating information to back up claims that Tehran wants to produce nuclear weapons.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there was a “very strong case” for moving forward with a third round of sanctions against Tehran, while Iran said the report’s findings confirmed that its nuclear program is a peaceful one.

“There is very good reason after this report to proceed to the third Security Council resolution,” Miss Rice said, adding that the report “demonstrates that whatever the Iranians may be doing to try to clean up some elements of the past, it is inadequate.”

The 11-page report said Iran “has not suspended its enrichment-related activities,” despite two sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions over fears the program might be used to make weapons-grade uranium instead of the nuclear fuel Iran says it is interested in.

Instead, said the report, Iran “started the development of new-generation centrifuges” — an expansion of enrichment — and continued working on heavy water nuclear facilities. When finished, Iran could cull them for plutonium, a possible fissile payload in nuclear warheads.

At the same time, the International Atomic Energy Agency report said that Tehran has cooperated in other areas of an IAEA probe, leading the agency to put to rest for now suspicions that several past experiments and activities were linked to a weapons program.

Specifically, the report suggested the agency was satisfied with answers provided by Iran on the origin of traces of enriched uranium in a military facility; on experiments with polonium, which can also be used in a weapons program; and on purchases on the nuclear black market.

Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazee said the report “clearly attests to the exclusively peaceful nature of the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran, both in the past and at present.”

But the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, said the report should pave the way for passage next week of a new U.N. Security Council resolution tightening sanctions on Tehran.

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