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. US pushes Iran nuclear program toward UN Security Council
WASHINGTON (AFP) Sep 02, 2004
A US diplomatic offensive launched Thursday pressed International Atomic Energy Agency members to refer Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, arguing a "legal basis and a security imperative" existed to do so.

The State Department said US diplomats, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, were "consulting actively" with the 34 other members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governing board at the agency's headquarters in Vienna and other capitals to secure support for the referral when the body meets beginning September 13.

"We believe the board should report Iran's noncompliance to the Security Council," spokesman Richard Boucher said.

"There's both a legal basis and a security imperative for taking this step, as Iran has demonstrated over the last year that it's willing to ignore the current level of international pressure to end its activities and to cooperate with the IAEA," he told reporters.

Boucher's comments came less than 24 hours after Powell said it was time for the IAEA to refer Iran's program, which the United States alleges is a cover for nuclear weapons development, to the Security Council to consider a range of punitive measures against the Islamic republic.

But Iran, which adamantly denies the charges, scoffed at US effort, noting that the latest IAEA report on the program had failed to provide evidence of Washington's allegations.

And, in Vienna, diplomats were skeptical that the US lobbying campaign would work, citing the report's finding that it was "plausible" that Tehran was telling the truth in claiming that uranium contamination had come from imported equipment and not from an enrichment program aimed at producing material for an atomic bomb.

But Boucher held firm to the US position and maintained that the latest report, the sixth since March 2003, contained further evidence that Iran intends to violate IAEA demands as well as commitments made to European nations to halt enrichment programs.

"We are at a situation where Iran has made very, very clear not only that it's not complying, but it doesn't intend to comply and that's where we have the difference from previous (IAEA) board meetings," Boucher said.

The report, which was circulated in Vienna on Wednesday, says that despite its earlier promises Iran has informed the agency that it is about to convert 37 tonnes of "yellowcake" uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas, a precursor for nuclear weapons fuel, and intends to continue work on gas centrifuges needed to produce the material.

"That's the situation we want to focus people's attention on," Boucher said. "That's a circumstance that we think requires action both legally and as a security matter from the board in order to pass this on to the Security Council."

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