Secretary of State Colin Powell says it is increasingly likely that the issue of Iran's nuclear program will have to be referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Speaking to reporters in Kuwait, the latest stop on his trip to the Middle East, Mr. Powell said Iran's latest nuclear moves are troubling.
The Bush administration has long held that Iran has a covert nuclear-weapons program. But it has refrained from taking the issue to the U.N. Security Council, hoping that pressure from key European allies, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency will persuade Tehran to change course.
In a talk with reporters traveling with him in Kuwait, Mr. Powell made clear that U.S. patience on the issue is running out, saying "it is more and more likely" that the matter will have to be referred to the Security Council.
The United States said earlier this week that Iran had mounted a direct challenge to the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. The U.S. statement came after diplomats in Vienna said Iran had resumed construction and assembly of uranium-enriching centrifuges.
Under an agreement reached last year with the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany, Iran committed to suspending sensitive nuclear activity and allowing tougher international inspections.
Mr. Powell said here Iran has not met its commitment, and the three European governments and the rest of the international community must consider the consequences for Tehran.
"Now Iran has made it clear that they do not intend to abide by all of those commitments," he said. "My three foreign minister colleagues are concerned about this and they are working on the problem, and I stay in close touch with them. But I have made it clear to them that we believe they must insist on their commitments being met, that they receive from the Iranians. And they have to factor it into any other actions the European Union might be thinking of taking, either in the economic sphere, the political sphere or elsewhere. It is a very troubling development."
Mr. Powell said the IAEA board would review the Iranian nuclear program at meetings in September and November. The 35-nation board could, at either meeting, decide to refer the matter to the Security Council.
Iran has steadfastly insisted that its nuclear program, which includes a power reactor complex being built for it by Russia, is for peaceful purposes only. But U.S. officials, among others, have questioned why Iran, a major oil and gas producer, is investing huge sums for nuclear power plants and a uranium-enrichment capability.