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US Objects to Russia's Help with Iran's Nuclear Program - 2003-08-27

The United States has again raised with Russian officials its objections to Moscow's assistance to Iran's nuclear program. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog calls Iran's efforts an issue of urgent concern and one that will be addressed by the body next month.

An upcoming report by the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to raise serious concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The IAEA says it has found traces of highly enriched uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, at one of the country's nuclear facilities. Iran has denied producing enriched uranium and calls the finding the result of contaminated equipment imported from Pakistan.

Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the United States has long suspected Iran of using its nuclear energy program as a cover to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies, saying its reactors are intended only to produce energy. While Iran is allowing the U.N. to continue inspections, just this week the IAEA said it continues to have unanswered questions about Iran's nuclear program.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said "there are still a number of outstanding issues in particular with regard to Iran's enrichment program and this is an issue that in our eyes requires urgent resolution."

This week, the Bush administration dispatched a senior envoy to Moscow to raise its concerns about Russia's role in Iran's nuclear activity, hoping for a strong and united response when the IAEA's board of governors meets to discuss the agency's findings next month.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said "and so we have been looking forward as we review the report to discussing it September 8 in Vienna and to meeting with the other IAEA board members and to coordinating an appropriately strong response."

In June, the IAEA said Iran had failed to meet its obligations to report on its nuclear activities and inspectors said they still had outstanding questions about the country's nuclear program. Under discussion at next month's IAEA meeting will be a protocol in which Iran would agree to surprise international inspections in exchange for limits on how intrusive those inspections can be.