Fri, Mar 04, 2005 - Page 5 News List

UN nuclear agency intensifies pressure on Iranian leaders


The US and other members of the UN nuclear watchdog agency on Wednesday intensified the pressure on Iran, accusing it of numerous failures to abide by its promise to suspend all of its uranium enrichment activities.

In a toughly worded statement to the trimonthly board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, the US representative, Jackie Sanders, excoriated Iran for what she called its willingness "to cynically manipulate the nuclear nonproliferation regime in the pursuit of nuclear weapons."

She called on the agency to report what she called "Iran's noncompliance" to the Security Council, a move that has been advocated by the US for two years but resisted by most other countries, including members of the EU.

In more moderate terms, Britain, France and Germany -- the "European Union three" that are striving to negotiate a permanent suspension of nuclear activity that is suspected of being weapons-related -- issued a statement expressed "serious concern" and "deep regret" over what they described as violations of Iran's promise to suspend its uranium enrichment and to provide a full account of all its nuclear activities.

While stepping up pressure in Vienna, the Bush administration also indicated a readiness to work with the Europeans trying to use incentives to persuade Iran to end its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to Washington on Wednesday after conferring with top European diplomats in London, where aides said they discussed European proposals for incentives.

US and European officials say the incentives center on trade preferences and the sale of commercial aircraft and aircraft spare parts.

After returning from London, Rice conferred with US President George W. Bush and others about the Iran negotiations, according to Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman.

He added that "the president has been looking at ways that we can help and do our part to make sure we're doing everything we can to support those efforts."

A decision on a possible US endorsement of the European offer of incentives may be made in several days or perhaps next week, European and US officials said. A European diplomat familiar with the broad outlines of the talks in London said Europeans were "relieved that the United States is considering concrete measures, which is a step forward."

The statements in Vienna on Wednesday came in response to an interim report on Iran a day earlier by the agency's deputy director-general, Pierre Goldschmidt, who listed several areas where Iran had continued to block inspections of its nuclear sites and refused to turn over information about its program.

"Dr. Goldschmidt's recitation of events since November provides us with a startling list of Iranian attempts to hide and mislead, and delay the work of IAEA inspectors," Sanders said during a closed meeting. A text of her remarks was later released to reporters.

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