A defiant Iran warned the International Atomic Energy Agency that it would press ahead with uranium enrichment if the agency pushes for UN Security Council action over Iran's nuclear program. China has urged Iran to cooperate with the IAEA, while the U.S. has reiterated its position that the world will not stand by and do nothing if Iran continues on the path to a nuclear weapons capability.
As the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency met to discuss what to do about Iranian nuclear ambitions, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the agency, expressed cautious optimism about resolving the dispute over Iran's plan to use centrifuges to enrich uranium.
"The sticking point, as you have seen, remains the question of the centrifuge-related R&Ds [research and developments], and that issue is still again being discussed this week. And I am still very much hopeful that in the next week or so an agreement could be reached."
But in an interview with VOA Persian Service, John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, suggested Security Council action was mandatory. "The IAEA has demonstrated that the Iranian regime has been conducting an extensive program to acquire nuclear weapons, has lied to the IAEA, has concealed information and their development is quite far along. So the Security Council is going to try to put international pressure on the government of Iran trying to convince them to give up this effort to acquire nuclear weapons," Mr. Bolton told us.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad tried to calm International concerns about his country's nuclear program. "First of all, we want peace and stability for all the countries, and we want to be in stable peace with others. The second point is that we will not give in to (the) use of force and will not use force against anyone."
Iran has insisted it has the right to conduct enrichment to produce nuclear fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity, but a growing number of nations share US fears that Iran may eventually produce fissile material for warheads.
Patrick Clawson is the Deputy Director of Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He says, "It is quite possible that the Security Council will order Iran to once again cooperate with accelerated inspections, designed to get to the bottom of what exactly have the Iranian been doing through the last 18 years."
Mr. Clawson believes that if the Security Council is united behind this stance, Iran will have to comply. But it is not clear that China -- or Russia -- will support tough Security Council action, and the prospect is for a drawn-out series of diplomatic maneuvers.