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IAEA Says Iran Has Not Suspended Uranium Enrichment


The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency says Iran has failed to suspend uranium enrichment, in defiance of Security Council demands. From U.N. headquarters, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports the finding clears the way for further sanctions aimed at Iran's suspect nuclear program.

A report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency concludes that Iran has expanded uranium enrichment since December, when the Security Council ordered a freeze on such activities. The six-page report says the Tehran government has continued construction of a nuclear reactor that could produce material used in weapons.

Iran has repeatedly denied having any intention to build nuclear weapons, and maintains its enrichment activities are aimed at producing energy.

But the six-page report written by IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei says Iran's refusal to cooperate has left the agency unable to verify that its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes. The report also says Iran has installed two uranium enrichment networks at its underground nuclear facility in Natanz, although no uranium has been fed into the system.

The Security Council initially imposed sanctions on Iran in late December, and gave the Tehran government two months to suspend uranium enrichment.

The Islamic republic's failure to comply exposes it to further sanctions. But the Security Council president for February, Slovakia's U.N. Ambassador Peter Burian, says there are no immediate plans to begin discussions on a follow-up resolution.

"Of course the presidency will be in contact with all 14 Security Council members, and we will find out whether there is a mood to convene consultations during our presidency or maybe a little bit later," he said. "We will be checking the mood and the interest of the members to deal with the matter."

U.N. diplomats general reacted cautiously to the IAEA conclusions. A U.S. State Department spokesman expressed disappointment over Iran's failure to comply with the previous Security Council resolution.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said his country, which delayed approval of the earlier resolution through weeks of negotiations, would prefer not to impose new sanctions on Iran.

"We should not lose sight of the goal," he said. "The goal is not to have a resolution or to impose sanctions. The goal is to accomplish a political outcome."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement in Vienna expressing "deep concern" at Iran's failure to meet the Security Council deadline for suspension of enrichment activities. The statement said Mr. Ban "once again urge(s) the Iranian government (to) fully comply with the demands" and engage in talks with the international community toward a peaceful resolution of the issue.

But a senior Iranian official is quoted as saying Iran cannot accept suspending uranium enrichment. Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, argued that the Security Council's demand has no legal basis.