A defiant Iran faced the prospect of economic sanctions after U.N. inspectors reported that the country ignored yesterday's deadline to halt its nuclear program and has been hindering efforts to determine whether it seeks to secretly develop nuclear weapons. President Bush, invoking the same language that he used to describe Iraq before the March 2003 invasion, called Iran a "grave threat" and said "there must be consequences" for Tehran's actions. "It is time for Iran to make a choice," Bush said in a speech to the American Legion's national convention in Salt Lake City.
His administration had offered to join talks with Iran and held out the possibility of future cooperation after 27 years' enmity, if Tehran met the United Nations' deadline for suspending its nuclear program. Yesterday, however, U.S. officials said they will demand international sanctions against the Iranian government. "We are going to move this toward a sanctions resolution at the United Nations," said R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs. "We expect others to join us."
European officials expressed dismay with Iran but emphasized a commitment to negotiations; they scheduled a meeting next week with Ali Larijani, the Iranian government's point man on nuclear issues. European diplomats will meet with Burns the next day in Berlin to discuss their options.
Iran has insisted that the nuclear program, which it kept hidden for 18 years, is for the production of peaceful energy that it has a right to develop. "The Iranian nation will not accept for one moment any bullying, invasion and violation of its rights," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. He called the United States government "tyrannical." His foreign minister said Iran's program is transparently peaceful and will continue.
In yesterday's report, nuclear inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency detailed a mountain of circumstantial evidence, collected in the last three years, that suggests Iran is still concealing aspects of its nuclear program. In just six pages, the inspectors complained 18 times about Iran's lack of cooperation, including refusing to hand over crucial documents, denying access to facilities and a new policy of rejecting certain entry visas for some inspectors. As a result, inspectors said, they could not confirm "the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."
But IAEA officials noted yesterday that they have not found proof of a weapons program and said Iran is still complying with basic, mandatory inspections that allow the agency to monitor all of its work with uranium. That access enabled the IAEA to report that Iran had "not suspended its enrichment related activities," as the Security Council required it to do by yesterday.
Iran had said it would be operating three cascades by now, each with 164 centrifuges able to enrich uranium. Instead, one cascade is assembled and is working only sporadically. "Their progress is far less than expected," said David Albright, a nuclear expert who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security. "Whether it's because of technical problems or self-restraint it's hard to gauge, but I don't think the U.S. can deliver on its promise to get hard sanctions when Iran is barely progressing."
Russia and China were reluctant to impose sanctions even before the report came out, playing down the need just weeks after U.S. officials felt they had received assurances from both countries to support such measures. Although many countries appear to share U.S. suspicions about Iran's intentions, they have profound differences with the Bush administration over how to respond and are apprehensive about the goals of a U.S. president who has said that "all options are on the table" in dealing with Tehran.
Also, traces of highly enriched uranium, which can be used for the core of a weapon, were discovered through environmental samples taken at another facility. Previous traces were found to have been the result of used and discarded centrifuge equipment the Iranians bought from Pakistan. Officials at the IAEA said privately yesterday that the new contamination appears to be from old spent fuel the Iranians moved out of harm's way during their eight-year war with Iraq.
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 1, 2006
Das Verstreichen des Ultimatums wird wohl vorerst keine Konsequenzen haben, außer daß die diplomatischen Bemühungen verstärkt werden, wobei sich insbesondere Europa engagiert. Damit Rußland und China grünes Licht für Sanktionen gegen den Iran geben, muß die IAEA erst wesentlich überzeugendere Beweise dafür finden, daß der Iran waffenfähiges Plutonium produzieren will.