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US:  IAEA Report on Iran Nuclear Program 'Deeply Troubling'

The United States reiterated Friday that it believes Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program, and said a report on the subject by the International Atomic Energy Agency is "deeply troubling." The IAEA report, still to be formally released, is reported to accuse Iran of failing to comply with nuclear safeguard commitments.

Though the IAEA report has only been circulated among member countries of the agency, its contents are already being leaked to the news media, and the Bush administration says it does nothing to alter the long-standing U.S. contention that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

The report by the IAEA follows a visit by senior officials of the U.N. agency, including Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, in February to two facilities in central Iran, identified last year by an Iranian exile group as being part of a nuclear weapons effort.

According to news reports, the document says Iran has failed to honor its nuclear safeguards agreement with respect to reporting its holdings of nuclear materials, its reprocessing of them, and its declarations of facilities where the materials are stored and processed.

It is understood to call those failings a matter of concern, while crediting Iran with beginning action to correct the deficiencies.

At a State Deparment briefing, spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States has known for some time that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. He said if that program was peaceful, as Iran contends, it should have been "no problem" for it to make a full disclosure.

"We think the report, and Iran's programs themselves, are deeply troubling, and need to be studied carefully by all members, and then we need to look at it seriously together," he said. "Iran's clandestine nuclear program represents a serious challenge to regional stability, the entire international community, and to the global non-proliferation regime."

The report is to be officially presented, and debated, at a meeting of the IAEA governing board that begins in Vienna on June 16.

Mr. Boucher declined to predict whether the United States might seek to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, would could impose sanctions against Iran.

A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Friday, Tehran has not violated any agreement on nuclear safeguards, while a senior Russian official said Moscow will continue with help to complete a nuclear power reactor at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf.

The United States has pressed Moscow to cease nuclear cooperation with Iran, contending that the Bushehr plant would give Iran vital know-how for its weapons drive.