Report Finds Iran Defiant of Deadline to Stop Uranium Enrichment

President Bush insisted that the United States will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and that Iran will pay the price if it fails to comply with U.N. demands. “We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution, but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance,” he said.

The Security Council passed a legally binding resolution July 31 for Iran to suspend “all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities including research and development” within 30 days.

As the deadline arrived on Thursday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country would not be bullied into giving up its right to nuclear technology. He has vowed not to abandon its nuclear program even with the threat of economic sanctions.

The report issued by the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, found that on Aug. 24, Iran resumed uranium enrichment and that it shows no signs of freezing research in the future. A copy of the report obtained by Reuters and the Associated Press said that Iran continued to refuse IAEA investigators access to certain records at its Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant and that it has not suspended enrichment related activities or worked on making its nuclear research activities more transparent.

The agency concluded that as a result, it cannot confirm Iranian claims that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and not to develop nuclear weapons as the United States and its European allies contend.

The deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeedi, responded that the report shows that “America’s propaganda and politically motivated claims over Iran’s nuclear programme are baseless and based on American officials’ hallucinations.”

The report could, however, provide justification for the United Nations to impose economic or political sanctions on Iran, a move the Security Council may consider in mid-September.

Iranian officials have agreed to meet with key European nations in September in a last-ditch effort to settle the issue through negotiations.

“We are confident of the peaceful nature of our program,” said Abbas Araghchi, the deputy minister for legal and international affairs of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. “So if there is also goodwill and sincerity on the other side, we are sure that we can reach a good solution, a good conclusion through negotiations.”

On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the Security Council must begin drawing up sanctions against Iran after it disregarded the U.N. deadline. U.S. and European officials may push for travel restrictions on Iranian officials or a ban on sale of dual-use technology.

More extreme economic sanctions such as freezing Iranian assets or a broader trade ban face opposition from Russia and China, two veto-wielding members of the Security Council with economic and strategic ties to Iran.

Facing this opposition at the United Nations, the Bush administration has considered encouraging allies to impose sanctions on Iran independent of the Security Council.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a U.S. ally along with Britain and France when dealing with Iran’s nuclear development, said that Iran’s refusal to comply with U.N. demands would be “very regrettable” and that “we cannot act as if nothing had happened.”