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US Criticizes Iran's 'Partial Answers' on Nuclear Program

The United States says Iran has provided only partial answers to the International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear program and intentions. Bush administration officials say they intend to push for another U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran but acknowledge resistance from China. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The State Department says that while Iran has apparently been forthcoming with the IAEA about some past nuclear efforts, its current activities are becoming more opaque and Tehran should not be given "partial credit" for work with the U.N. agency.

In a long-awaited report on the Iranian nuclear program Thursday, the IAEA credited Iran with substantial progress in revealing the extent of its program, but said its cooperation has been reactive rather than pro-active, and that full transparency is needed.

The United States and some European allies believe Iran's nominally-peaceful nuclear program has a covert weapons component. Briefing reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the IAEA report shows that Iran, when cornered, is prepared to make only superficial concessions about its activities.

"The report talks about the fact the IAEA has a diminishing view into the current activities of Iran," said McCormack. "So while the Iranians are trying to turn everybody's attention to their partial answers on some of their past activities, the ability of the IAEA to gain insight into what they're currently doing on the ground in Iran with respect to their nuclear program is starting to diminish, and that is certainly is troubling."

McCormack said the United States will continue pushing for a third U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran for its failure to heed Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment and return to negotiations over its program.

The veto-wielding permanent Security Council members and Germany agreed in principle on a new resolution in September. But officials here say China has balked at attending a meeting of senior diplomats of the so-called P-Five plus one, tentatively set for early next week, to finalize a sanctions measure.

McCormack said what is needed now is for China to play a "constructive role," not only on scheduling the meeting but on elements of a resolution increasing economic pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment.

His comments were echoed in New York by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad, who said he does not think China would want to be responsible for a "failure of diplomacy" on the Iran nuclear issue.

Khalilzad also said that Iran would not be prevented from having a civil nuclear power program, if international concerns about its activities can be resolved.

"We understand, and we have stated repeatedly, that if what motivates Iran is the desire to have reliable fuel for its reactors, a solution can be found," said Khalilzad. "At this point, what the international community has asked of Iran in two resolutions is to suspend the build-up of enrichment, to suspend the production of a heavy-water reactor. I think that if Iran's concern is reliable fuel, we understand that and we're willing to work with the Iranian government to deal with that problem."

The United States has supported a Russian offer to provide uranium fuel for the nuclear power plant Moscow is building for Iran at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, provided that spent fuel is returned to Russia for reprocessing.

The Bush administration has also offered to hold open-ended political talks with Iran if it halts its enrichment drive, which the IAEA said Thursday now involves three thousand centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility.