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US Consults on New Iran Nuclear Resolution

The Bush administration said Tuesday it has begun consultations on a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would further penalize Iran for failing to heed demands to halt uranium enrichment. An initial Security Council deadline for Iran to comply expires Wednesday. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Security Council is awaiting a formal report from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran's compliance with the December 23 resolution.

But officials here say it is already clear that Iran has failed to heed its terms, and they say the United States has begun consulting with other council members on a follow-up resolution to increase the pressure on Tehran.

Briefing reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Tehran has neither halted enrichment and related activities as called for in resolution 1736, nor replied to questions posed by the IAEA about its nuclear intentions:

"We're certainly considering an additional resolution in the Security Council depending on what we see in that report, and depending on how we view the next steps in this process. Certainly we want to make sure that Iran understands, that the government of Iran understands, that they're going continue to pay an increasing price for their defiance of the international community," he said.

The December 23 resolution imposed sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear and missile programs, and key persons involved in them, and gave Tehran 60 days to halt enrichment or face additional measures, a deadline that expires Wednesday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday his country was ready to stop its enrichment program and return to talks, but only if Western nations stop their own enrichment activities.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow immediately dismissed the offer as another attempt by Tehran to sidestep its responsibility under the U.N. resolution. "The international community has made it clear that Iran should not be in a position to develop or possess nuclear weapons. So that is a false offer because the position of the international community is clear. And furthermore the offer, the offer of help, the offer of nuclear power for the Iranian people - that's out on the table as well. So now it's the responsibility of the Iranians to step forward and act," he said.

The United States and key allies believe that Iran's nominally peaceful nuclear program has long concealed a secret weapons project.

They have offered to assist Iran with civilian nuclear power, but only if fuel for its generating plants is produced outside the country and sent back abroad after its use.

Under those terms, the United States had with some reluctance supported a Russian effort to complete a partially built nuclear power plant for Iran at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf.

But Tuesday State Department Spokesman Casey expressed relief over reports Russia may be preparing to suspend the project because Iran has fallen behind on payments.

He said it is very clear that Moscow shares U.S. concerns about Iran's intentions, and that regardless of Russia's stated rationale for slowing the Bushehr project, neither country is anxious to see any aspect of the Iranian nuclear program move forward.