U.S. officials say the United States has reached agreement with key allies on a draft resolution on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, to be presented at this week's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The measure would set up a showdown over the Iranian program at the U.N. agency's next meeting in November.
Officials here say the draft resolution hammered out in talks on the sidelines of the IAEA meeting in Vienna would call for an immediate end to Iranian uranium-enrichment activities, while deferring until the agency's next meeting a critical decision on whether to refer the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
The United States has long held that Iran's nominally-peaceful nuclear program conceals a covert weapons effort, and the Bush administration confirmed in recent days that it would push for a Security Council referral.
A State Department spokesman said the United States, Canada and Australia, along with Britain, France and Germany, which have been heavily involved in nuclear talks with Iran, reached agreement on the draft which will go to the IAEA's 35 nation governing board Friday.
The measure is understood to call for Iran to immediately cease uranium-enrichment and related activity, and to declare that it is imperative for Iran to clear up outstanding issues concerning its nuclear program before the board's next meeting November 25.
The draft says the board will decide then whether or not further steps are appropriate, a reference to a Security Council referral.
On Wednesday, a prominent international nuclear expert, former U.S. weapons inspector David Albright, released satellite photographs which he said show an Iranian military complex near Tehran that may be a site for research testing and production of nuclear weapons.
Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA categorically denied nuclear activities at the complex at Parchin, southeast of the capital, and said suggestions to the contrary are American lies.
At a news briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he was not in a position to share information about the Parchin facility but said in any case there is no shortage of evidence about Iran's intentions. "I would not be able to relate that kind of conclusion to any specific site. But I think it has been very clear, we have made very clear, that Iran's activity, that activity that has been reported by the IAEA, that activity that we have talked about for many years, in our view is ample evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and that these activities, many of these activities Iran has conducted, point in that direction," he said.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program, including acknowledged uranium enrichment and the building of enrichment centrifuges, is solely intended for the generation of electricity, initially by a nuclear power plant being built with Russian help at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf.
U.S. officials accuse Iran of nearly two decades of denial and deception about its nuclear program and say it makes no economic sense for an oil-rich country like Iran to acquire a nuclear-electric capability.