US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton accused Iran of spending the last 18 years trying to develop nuclear weapons to intimidate the Middle East and "possibly to supply to terrorists."
Bolton, in an interview with the BBC broadcast late on Friday, said Iran had lied about its nuclear program and said the international community needed to react.
"I think that the Iranians have been pursuing a nuclear weapons program for up to 18 years," he said. "They have engaged in concealment and deception and they've engaged in threats before ... The real issue is whether an international community is going to accept an Iran that violates its treaty commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, that lies about its program and is determined to get nuclear weapons deliverable on ballistic missiles that it can then use to intimidate not only its own region but possibly to supply to terrorists."
Washington and the EU are trying to persuade the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, to refer Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Iran has denied US charges that it wants to build an atomic bomb and says its programs are aimed at the peaceful generation of electricity.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed to secure Russian support for its hard line against Iran on a surprise trip she made to Moscow yesterday.
Russia and the US disagreed on whether Iran should be permitted to enrich uranium as part of a controversial nuclear program, with Moscow defending its right to do so and Washington saying Tehran could not be trusted with the technology.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, flanked by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told reporters that Moscow saw no reason to put the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council as sought by Washington, and said Tehran had a right to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear power use.
"All members of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have this right," Lavrov stated.
Rice retorted that "the NPT doesn't come only with rights but also with obligations."
"This is not an issue of rights but of whether or not the fuel cycle can be trusted in Iran," Rice said.
Russia says it shares US opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, but insists there is no evidence that Tehran was trying to do so -- indeed that it could not do so even if it wanted to, using the Russian technology it is using to build its first nuclear power station at Bushehr.
"Iran must continue to cooperate with the IAEA so that any questions that arise can be fully clarified," Lavrov said, adding that the NPT regime must "under no conditions" be violated.
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