U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday there is a very strong case for new U.N. sanctions against Iran after a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency faulted Iranian cooperation with the IAEA. Senior diplomats from major world powers meet in Washington next Monday to discuss a sanctions move in the Security Council. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The long-awaited IAEA report credited Iran with increased cooperation in recent months in answering questions about its past nuclear activities.

However it said Tehran has expanded rather than halted uranium enrichment,and has failed to explain alleged explosives and ballistic missile work that may be linked to a nuclear weapons effort.

The report came against a background of stalled efforts in the U.N. Security Council led by the United States and European allies to approve a third and more stringent sanctions measure aimed at getting Iran to stop uranium enrichment.

At a news conference here late Friday, Secretary Rice said the world community now has a very strong case for acting on new sanctions.

"Anyone who takes even a dispassionate assessment of what this report says, or what the Iranians are doing, would have to say that the reasons for a Security Council resolution are very strong. Iran continues to enrich. It is in fact enhancing its enrichment activities. It is clearly making all kinds of statements that suggest it is not going to deal with the will of the international community. It hasn't answered questions about past activities and covert programs that they say they didn't have, and it has not moved toward the additional protocol," she said.

A U.S. intelligence report last December that Iran had a nuclear weapons program but suspended it in 2003 had also slowed the sanctions drive.

Rice said the IAEA report shows that Iran's efforts to reassure the world community about its nuclear intentions have been inadequate, and that despite Tehran's professions of peaceful nuclear intent, its enrichment effort allows Iran to perfect weapons techniques.

Rice's comments precede a Washington meeting Monday of senior diplomats of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the so-called P-Five-Plus-One, to discuss their next moves on the nuclear issue.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who will chair the meeting, told reporters the United States wants the Security Council to begin formal debate next week on a draft resolution the P-Five-Plus-One approved at a Berlin meeting in late January.

Burns did not say how long debate might last and did not rule out modifications of the sanctions package, which is already weaker than what the United States had wanted.

U.S. envoy to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in New York he hoped for a vote in the 15-member council next Friday.