US Brands Iran Enemy No 1
Ian Traynor and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian:
The US administration branded Iran public enemy number one, calling it one of the world's most active sponsors of terrorism, as the UN nuclear inspectors revealed that Tehran has successfully enriched uranium and is racing ahead with its nuclear programme.
The report from Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to the UN security council shifted the nuclear dispute on to a new plane, with the US and Britain leading a campaign for enforcement and punitive action against Iran.
Tehran said it did not "give a damn" about the verdict from Dr ElBaradei and what it might lead to.
The US state department's annual report on terrorism worldwide described Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism.
It said the Revolutionary Guards and the ministry of intelligence and security were directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts in Iraq and elsewhere and supported militant groups in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. READ MORE
Iran threatened to end cooperation with the nuclear inspectors if the security council decided to react to the Iranian challenge. It also played for time by promising a timetable for negotiations with the IAEA within three weeks.
The ElBaradei report has set the scene for a rapid worsening of the crisis. Iran had built a rig of 164 centrifuges and used them to enrich uranium to 3.6%, and was assembling a further 328 centrifuges at its underground uranium enrichment complex at Natanz, the eight-page report said.
The IAEA also raised questions about Iran's experiments in separating plutonium and about military involvement in what Tehran insists is a purely civil nuclear programme.
The IAEA was "unable to make progress in its efforts to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran", the report said.
"Gaps remain in the agency's knowledge with respect to the scope and content of Iran's centrifuge programme ... [as well as] other gaps in the agency's knowledge, including the role of the military in Iran's nuclear programme."
A senior official familiar with the IAEA investigation said Iran's cooperation with the inspectors was now "lukewarm". A diplomat following the dispute said: "The Iranians are going full steam ahead. They said they would, and they are doing it."
President George Bush, speaking in the Rose Garden, said he was not discouraged by the failure of diplomatic pressure on Iran. "I think the diplomatic options are just beginning," he said. He said "the world is united and concerned" about Iran's nuclear programme.
The US, Britain and France will try to step up diplomatic pressure on Iran by seeking a new "chapter seven" security council resolution that would open the way for sanctions and, in theory, military action. But Russia and China, who could block the resolution, are opposed.
John Bolton, US ambassador to the UN, said the US would specifically seek a "chapter seven" resolution.
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, said: "It is very serious that the Iranian regime has failed fully to cooperate with the IAEA and the United Nations security council." He said Britain would ask the security council to "increase the pressure on Iran".
Before the ElBaradei report yesterday, however, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Iran "does not give a damn" for security council demands and boasted the country was already an irreversible nuclear power.
With the international community divided on how to proceed, there appear to be no easy options.
The Russians, who have a veto in the security council, look likely to oppose a mandatory resolution aimed at Iran, since it can ultimately be used to justify military intervention.
Diplomats in Vienna said Moscow or another opponent of western policy on Iran may demand an emergency meeting of the IAEA board for the end of next week. This would be resisted by the US, Britain and France, who want to focus the diplomacy at the security council rather than at the IAEA.
Officials from the US, Britain, France, Russia and China, all permanent members of the security council, and Germany will meet in Paris on Tuesday to try to reach agreement on a resolution.
If progress is made, foreign ministers from the six countries are scheduled to meet the following Tuesday. A meeting of UN ambassadors from the security council countries is also planned for next week.