The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran is continuing its nuclear fuel enrichment in defiance of the U.N Security Council. The United States and European members of the Council are urgently preparing a legally binding resolution demanding a halt to the enrichment program.
The agency has concluded that Iran has successfully enriched uranium, and is ignoring international calls to stop it. That is the main finding of an eight-page report sent to the Security Council Friday by IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei.
The report says more than three years of studying Iran's nuclear program have failed to determine whether it is aimed at producing weapons, and called on Tehran to be more cooperative.
American and European members of the Security Council seized on the report to push their case for an immediate and unified diplomatic response, while China and Russia urged caution.
America's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said the findings make clear that Iran has failed to comply with previous Security Council or IAEA demands. He said the report strengthens the case made by the United States and European powers for prompt Council action on a legally binding resolution under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter.
"It's clear Iran has done nothing to comply with existing IAEA board resolutions or the request contained in the Security Council presidential statement that it suspend all enrichment activities and take a number of additional steps to show that in fact Iran's nuclear program is for purely civil peaceful purposes as they contend," he said.
Bolton said a draft resolution to be put forward by Council members Britain and France next week would be, "very simple, very straightforward".
"It will simply make mandatory the obligations already imposed on Iran by previously existing IAEA resolutions," he added. "That really puts the ball back in Iran's court. It's up to them whether they will honor their obligations under the UN charter."
But Chinese and Russian diplomats signaled a long and contentious struggle ahead among the Security Council's five permanent members. Beijing's Ambassador Wang Guangya said a legally binding Chapter Seven resolution would unnecessarily complicate efforts to find a diplomatic solution.
"Chapter Seven's implication is clear," said Mr. Wang. "All we want is a diplomatic solution. So I believe that by invoking Chapter Seven that would be more complicated, because the implications will lead events to a direction that is uncertain."
Iran has consistently maintained its position that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The official Iranian news agency quotes President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as saying he "does not give a damn" about Security Council resolutions, and would not back down one bit in its quest for nuclear technology. He called Iran's uranium enrichment program "irreversible."
U.N. diplomats say the Security Council strategy on Iran is likely to take shape next Tuesday, when top diplomats of the Permanent Five Council members and Germany meet in Paris. Another meeting is possible the following week when the diplomats gather again in New York for talks on the Middle East.