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UN Nuclear Agency Opens Crucial Meeting on Iran


Board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency are holding a meeting Monday in Vienna to discuss referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council over its controversial nuclear program. The lead up to the meeting has been marked by sharp rhetoric on both sides of the issue.

The IAEA board of governors will hear a report from the agency's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, who says Iran has largely ignored demands that it renounce its controversial uranium-enrichment work. The enrichment process can be used to produce (fissionable) material necessary to build an atomic bomb.

Shortly before the IAEA meeting, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued another warning that Western nations would only create further problems if they continue to pressure his government on the nuclear issue.

Iran has threatened to begin what it calls industrial-scale nuclear fuel production, if the Security Council takes up the dispute.

In Washington, Sunday, The United States' chief U.N. envoy, Ambassador John Bolton told the pro-Israel lobbying group, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Iran could face "painful consequences" if it continues "down the path of international isolation."

He framed the nuclear issue, in light of Iran's threats against Israel, in the starkest terms.

"If the pursuit of nuclear weapons by a state with a leader who calls for another to be wiped off the map is not considered a threat to international peace and security then what is?" questioned Bolton.

The United States says Tehran is engaged in a secret program to build nuclear weapons - a development that President Bush says would endanger the entire world. Iran, which resumed enriching uranium this year in defiance of Western protests, says its nuclear program is intended only to build generating stations to supply its population with electricity. Uranium enrichment can be used either to create fuel for such reactors or to produce weapons-grade material.

Iran and Russia have been discussing a Russian proposal to transfer Iran's nuclear fuel production line to Russian facilities, but they have not reached an agreement. Officials in Tehran say those talks will end if the Security Council begins considering possible penalties against Iran.

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