(CNSNews.com) - Three years after Iran's 18-year nuclear program cover-up was exposed, and following its decision this week to resume sensitive uranium work in violation of an agreement negotiated with European nations last November, the U.N. nuclear watchdog Thursday issued a statement voicing "serious concern."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors' resolution made no reference to the possibility of action against Iran such as referral to the U.N. Security Council.
Instead, it spoke of "the importance of rectifying the situation" and "the possibility of further discussions" following Iran's resumption of uranium conversion - a step that precedes enrichment - at a plant in Isfahan.
It said "outstanding issues relating to Iran's nuclear program have yet to be resolved, and that the agency is not yet in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran."
The 35-nation IAEA board called on Iran to suspend the uranium conversion work. It will meet again in early September to consider a report from agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on implementation of the resolution.
The U.S. has tried for two years to have Iran referred to the Security Council - which could impose sanctions - but found insufficient support. European Union nations have instead sought to extract an agreement from Iran to give up its nuclear cycle activities voluntarily in return for incentives. Washington has backed the E.U. initiative.
China said publicly this week that Security Council referral would not be helpful, and "non-aligned" nations also issued a statement expressing opposition to such a move.
Despite the relatively mild rebuke, Tehran rejected the IAEA statement, reiterating its position that it has the right to enrich uranium and carry out other nuclear fuel production cycle activities.
"It comes from American pressure," Tehran's official news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying. "It lacks any legal or logical basis and is unacceptable."
The U.S. government and many proliferation experts believe the civilian nuclear energy program can provide Iran with the know-how and material to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies it has plans to build atom bombs.
President Bush called the resolution "a positive first step."
The State Department has stressed that the U.S. hopes to give Iran the opportunity to "do the right thing."
"If Iran doesn't take the steps described in the resolution, we would expect that the next step would be referral to the Security Council," spokesman Adam Ereli said Thursday.
See Earlier Story:
US Presses for Nuclear Agency to Send 'Strong Message' to Iran (Aug. 11, 2005)
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