The United States says it expects a "full and factual" accounting by the International Atomic Energy Agency of any evidence it may have found in Iran about that country's efforts to produce weapons-grade uranium. The comments follow news reports that samples taken by the IAEA in Iran have yielded traces of highly-enriched uranium.
The Bush administration has long contended that Iran's nominally-peaceful nuclear program is concealing a covert weapons effort.
And it is calling IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei to provide the United States and other agency board members with an early report on what IAEA inspectors may have discovered on recent visits to Iran.
The appeal followed an account by the Reuters news agency Friday quoting diplomats in Vienna the IAEA headquarters as saying that IAEA environmental samples taken in Iran indicate that country has been enriching uranium without informing the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
Briefing reporters here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States expects a full report on the test results, and hopefully well in advance of the IAEA's next scheduled board meeting September 12.
He said latest report and other recent revelations about Iran's nuclear activities only underscore concerns about Iran's nuclear program, which, he said, poses a serious challenge to regional stability and global non-proliferation efforts.
"We've always said that the Iranian clandestine nuclear program should be a very serious concern to everyone, that it was much more than a peaceful reactor program," he said. "I think this substantiates those statements that we've made over time, and we would expect everyone to be able to act accordingly."
Questioned about the Reuters report, a spokeswoman for the IAEA said the agency was still in the middle of a complex inspection process in Iran, and is investigating "a number of unresolved issues."
She said more samples would be taken in coming weeks and that the IAEA is not ready to judge the significance of test results. Mr. ElBaradei himself was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the alleged uranium discovery was "pure speculation" at this point.
In February, Iranian authorities allowed Mr. ElBaradei and other IAEA experts to visit a uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz in central Iran that had been identified by an Iranian exile group last year as part of a covert bomb program.
Iran says the Natanz plant is to produce fuel for nuclear power plants and it has no interest in building nuclear weapons, though the Tehran government has resisted tougher inspections of its program.
U.S. officials have accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them, and that it otherwise makes no sense for the energy-rich country to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire a full nuclear fuel-cycle.