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Iran Defies U.N. Deadline on Uranium Enrichment

Iran has expanded its uranium-enrichment activities in defiance of U.N. Security Council demands, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported. Analysts discuss what may happen next to address Iran's nuclear program.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    For the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, it was a return to a familiar topic: Iran's uranium enrichment program. Yesterday, another deadline passed for Iran to stop its nuclear activities at facilities such as Natanz, south of the capital, Tehran.

    But the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, stated flatly in its newest report that the Islamic republic had instead continued operating its programs.

    Iran insists they are for peaceful civilian energy. Other nations are worried they will lead to nuclear weapons.

    In Washington, State Department Spokesman Tom Casey warned Iran's continued defiance of UN Security Council resolutions could lead to tougher sanctions.

  • TOM CASEY, State Department Spokesman:

    We think that it would be far better for the Iranian people, as well as for the international community, to be able to have Iran engage with the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany in negotiations. But, of course, to do that, it requires them to heed the requirements of the resolution, suspend their uranium enrichment activities.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said the agency's report documented Iranian compliance with international demands. He also urged negotiations.

    ALI ASGHAR SOLTANIEH, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA: The best course of action is coming to the negotiating table. Iran is fully prepared that any country has a question about our activities, we are prepared to remove ambiguities. Hopefully, if others are also convinced as we are that the best course of action, other than confrontation, sanctions, resolutions, is coming to negotiating table, then I hope we are on right track.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Today's IAEA report was an assessment of Iranian compliance with a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted unanimously in December. That resolution set a 60-day deadline for compliance and banned the transfer of certain technologies to Iran, as long as it continued enrichment and other activities.

    But today, the IAEA also cautioned again about Iran's nuclear intentions. The agency concluded it still was unable to assess fully or accurately the development of Iran's nuclear program, its scope, or its nature, and that Iran still may have undeclared nuclear material and activities.

    The report also said Iran had, in fact, expanded its centrifuge operations at Natanz. Centrifuges purify uranium to fuel nuclear power plants, but they also can make weapons-grade uranium.

    This morning, in Berlin, before the report's release, Secretary of State Rice said the U.S. and other countries should continue putting diplomatic pressure on Iran to stop its program. But later today, Russia's U.N. ambassador questioned the need for new sanctions against Iran.