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Israel Pushes UN to Stand Firm on Iran Nuclear Program - 2003-11-19

Israel's foreign minister says the International Atomic Energy Agency must stand firm in dealing with Iran's nuclear program, and, if necessary, send the matter to the United Nations Security Council. The United States, like Israel, is also taking a hard line against Iran.

Silvan Shalom spoke to reporters after talks on the Middle East with his counterpart, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Mr. Shalom said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has already found Iran guilty of violating international obligations by secretly working on a nuclear weapons program.

Tehran angrily denies the charge, claiming it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The IAEA board of governors meets Thursday in Vienna to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions. Mr. Shalom said the IAEA should be tough on Iran.

"We believe this issue should be moved to the Security Council, but until then, we should give the European countries [time] to complete their efforts to supervise the efforts made by the Iranians to develop nuclear weapons for military purposes," said the Israeli official.

Mr. Shalom said Iran posed a threat to Israel and to the world. A Western diplomat who asked not to be identified said the IAEA should cite Iran for repeated non-compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty over the last 20 years.

But national envoys to the IAEA say there is little support on the 35-member board to send the matter to the United Nations. The diplomats say there is general agreement that Iran should allow tougher international inspections of its nuclear facilities and cooperate fully with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

A decision by the IAEA board is expected by Friday.