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US Wants Security Council to Take Up Issue of Iran's Nuclear Program - 2004-09-07

Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday reaffirmed the United States' intention to try to get the issue of Iran's nuclear program referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency begins a critical meeting on the matter next week in Vienna.

Iran has floated the idea this week that it might suspend production and testing of centrifuges for enriching uranium as a gesture to the international community.

But at an impromptu news conference here, Mr. Powell made clear the Bush administration is unimpressed and will seek a referral to the Security Council when the 35-member IAEA board of governors convenes September 13.

Mr. Powell said the United States was prepared to recommend a referral a year ago, and only accepted a delay to give the IAEA and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany another chance to persuade Iran to come clean with its nuclear activities.

"They have been working on that for the last, almost a year," he said. "And unfortunately I don't think the response from Iran has been very positive or constructive, either to what the EU-Three commitments were, or to the IAEA. We believe that we have seen enough, that action is warranted, and the IAEA should refer the matter to the Security Council at its upcoming meeting next week."

Mr. Powell said it remains to be seen whether the IAEA board, which normally operates by consensus, will follow the U.S. lead and recommend a referral. He noted that the board also plans a follow-on meeting in November.

Iran has in the past threatened to break off cooperation with the IAEA if the governors sought a referral. While Iran insists that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, the United States has long held that it has a covert weapons component.