U.S. urges sanc­tions against Tehran over nu­clear fuel

The Washington Times Weekly - - WORLD - By David R. Sands

The United States on May 15 called for tough in­ter­na­tional ac­tion against Iran af­ter re­ports that in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors have con­cluded Tehran has made ma­jor tech­ni­cal strides in re­cent days to­ward pro­cess­ing nu­clear fuel — ma­te­rial that can power a re­ac­tor or an atomic bomb.

State De­part­ment spokesman Tom Casey said the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­pared to press for a new round of U.N. sanc­tions if Iran de­fies res­o­lu­tions call­ing on it to halt the en­rich­ment of ura­nium — a crit­i­cal step in the pro­duc­tion of a nu­clear weapon.

“What is key here, and what is ob­vi­ous to ev­ery­one is that Iran has con­tin­ued to act in de­fi­ance of the wishes of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” Mr. Casey said. “We need to con­tinue to ap­ply pres­sure and in­crease pres­sure with an ad­di­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion if they don’t com­ply.”

In­spec­tors from the Vi­enna, Aus- tria-based In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nu­clear watch­dog, have de­ter­mined that Iran has cleared a num­ber of tech­ni­cal hur­dles on the road to de­vel­op­ing nu­clear-grade fuel, al­though ma­jor chal­lenges re­main.

IAEA mon­i­tors made a snap in­spec­tion of a key Ira­nian nu­clear fa­cil­ity in the town of Natanz over the May 12-13 week­end. The agency plans to is­sue a for­mal re­port to the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Iran’s sus­pect pro­grams this week.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBa­radei, in re­marks pub­lished in the New York Times on May 15, said the U.S.led drive to pre­vent Iran from ob­tain­ing the tech­nol­ogy and knowhow to en­rich ura­nium had al­ready failed. The only ques­tion now, Mr. ElBa­radei said, was whether in­ter­na­tional pres­sure could keep Iran from mas­ter­ing the fi­nal steps to­ward in­dus­trial-scale pro­duc­tion.

“We be­lieve they pretty much have the knowl­edge about how to en­rich,” he said in re­marks later re­leased by the IAEA.

“From now on, it is sim­ply a ques- tion of per­fect­ing that knowl­edge. Peo­ple will not like to hear it, but that’s a fact,” Mr. ElBa­radei said.

The United States and its Euro­pean al­lies have been de­mand­ing Iran sus­pend all ura­nium-en­rich­ment ef­forts by May 23. Tehran in- sists it has the right to de­velop nu­clear power and says all its pro­grams are for peace­ful, civil­ian uses.

U.S. of­fi­cials re­fused to com­ment on the latest round of IAEA in­spec­tions, say­ing no new in­for­ma­tion has been given to coun­tries on the agency’s board in Vi­enna.

With Iran only grudg­ingly giv­ing out in­for­ma­tion on its nu­clear pro­grams, it is not clear just how big a tech­ni­cal ad­vance the coun­try has made in re­cent months.

Mr. ElBa­radei has made sim­i­lar com­ments in the past about the im­pos­si­bil­ity of keep­ing Iran from ac­quir­ing at least the knowl­edge of how to make weapons-grade fuel. He said IAEA in­spec­tors think Iran has yet to solve some ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ing and re­fin­ing prob­lems.

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad said last month that Iran had al­ready be­gun en­rich­ing ura­nium on an in­dus­trial scale, al­though out­side spe­cial­ists doubted the claim.

The IAEA it­self con­cluded at the time that Iran was op­er­at­ing some 1,300 cen­trifuges — the ma­chines that spin ura­nium gas into en­riched ma­te­rial for both en­ergy and weapons uses.

The New York Times ar­ti­cle said the num­ber of cen­trifuges at Natanz could jump to 3,000 by the end of next month. At that level, Iran could the­o­ret­i­cally en­rich enough ura­nium to fuel a nu­clear bomb within a year.

But ex­perts cau­tion that Ira­nian tech­ni­cians still face ma­jor ob­sta­cles in co­or­di­nat­ing the in­di­vid­ual cen­trifuges into a work­able pro­duc­tion chain.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion said it still thinks diplo­macy can re­solve the cri­sis, but for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, John R. Bolton, in an in­ter­view with the Lon­don Daily Tele­graph on May 15, said the United States must con­sider regime change in Tehran and mil­i­tary ac­tion to stop Iran from get­ting the bomb.

“If all else fails, if the choice is be­tween a nu­clear-ca­pa­ble Iran and the use of force, then I think we need to look at the use of force,” he said.

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad

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