U.N. Faults Iran's Nuclear Program; Washington Demands Complete Disclosure

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Byline: Sharon Behn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A U.N. watchdog agency accused Iran yesterday of failing to abide by international safeguards on its nuclear program, bringing an immediate U.S. demand that Tehran disclose all aspects of its nuclear activities.

"Iran has failed to meet its obligation ... with respect to the reporting of nuclear material, the subsequent processing and use of that material and the declaration of facilities where the material was stored and processed," the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in a hard-hitting report distributed to member states yesterday.

But the agency added that Iran is beginning to correct this problem.

"While these failures are in the process of being rectified by Iran, the process of verifying the correctness and completeness of the Iranian declarations is still ongoing," said the report, according to Agence France-Presse. AFP said the conclusions were made available to the news agency by a diplomat.

The report is likely to be seen as a vindication of U.S. efforts to pressure other governments to halt aid to Iran's nuclear programs.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We think the report, and Iran's programs themselves, are deeply troubling and need to be studied carefully by all members."

"Iran's clandestine nuclear program represents a serious challenge to regional stability, the entire international community, and the global nonproliferation regime. The U.S. will work with other members of the IAEA to ensure proper response," the department said in a statement.

The IAEA noted that Iran has said it will address the problems pointed to in the report, while officials in Tehran defended their country's record.

"We have answers for all the points mentioned," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told the Reuters news agency. "We have done nothing which violates our commitments."

IAEA "safeguard agreements" are designed to ensure that countries that are a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) do not divert materials or use facilities to develop covert nuclear-weapons programs.

A U.S. official familiar with the process said the Bush administration was studying the report carefully and would be discussing it at length at the IAEA board of governors' meeting in Vienna on June 16.

President Bush has included Iran in his "axis of evil" that also includes Iraq and North Korea, and some in the Bush administration have pushed for a hard line against Tehran and its military programs in the wake of the Iraq war.

But "this was not a shot across the bow," said Rachel Bronson, director of Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Given the fact that Iran is in violation, you could have had a much more gloating, aggressive stance by the administration. …