The United States Thursday accused Iran of trying to "intimidate" the International Atomic Energy Agency. The comments follow an Iranian threat to resume uranium enrichment and end snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, if the IAEA does not acknowledge its cooperation with the agency.
The Bush administration has long maintained that Iran is trying to conceal a weapons project within its nominally-peaceful nuclear program.
It is now accusing Tehran of trying to intimidate the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency with threats to rescind the agreement it made with the IAEA last year to allow short-notice, intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities.
The U.S. comments follow a warning from Tehran Thursday by President Mohammad Khatami that Iran will halt inspections and resume enriching uranium, if the agency does not recognize Iranian cooperation at a pivotal meeting of its governing board in Vienna next month.
Iran has said its acceptance last year of closer IAEA scrutiny of its nuclear facilities should end all questions about its intentions and it has made clear it wants the governors to drop the investigation of its nuclear program.
At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Iran has been far from fully cooperative about its nuclear activities, and that its attempt to pressure the IAEA board is inappropriate.
?We don't think it's appropriate to try to intimidate the IAEA or its board into overlooking the many failures of Iran to meet its nonproliferation commitments. The IAEA has documented 18 years of clandestine nuclear activity in Iran,? Mr. Boucher said. ?Tehran has repeatedly failed to declare significant and troubling aspects of its nuclear program. It has interfered with and suspended inspections. It has failed to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency in resolving outstanding issues relating to its program. Iran has made clear, as shown by those remarks, that Iran somehow doesn't feel bound by its own pledge to suspend all enrichment-related activities.?
Mr. Boucher said the United States expects a new report on the Iranian nuclear program by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei in the next few days, and, in the meantime, urges complete disclosure and cooperation by Iran with the U.N. agency.
He side-stepped the question of whether the United States might press the IAEA board to refer the case of Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. He said U.S. officials want to see what Mr. ElBaradei reports, before deciding on an "appropriate course" for the next board meeting.