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U.S. and Allies to List Iranian Sanctions For Proposal to U.N.

By Helene Cooper
and David E. Sanger


With Iran defying a Thursday deadline to halt production of nuclear fuel, the United States and three European allies are assembling a list of sanctions they would seek in the U.N. Security Council, beginning with restrictions on imports of nuclear material.

Eventually, punitive measures might expand to restrict travel by Iran’s leaders and limit the country’s access to global financial markets, according to diplomatic officials who are involved in the talks and would speak only on condition of anonymity.

Aside from the effort in the Security Council, the Bush administration is also seeking to persuade European financial institutions to end new lending to Iran. Some Swiss banks have already quietly agreed to limit their lending, U.S. officials say.

Even as an agreement shapes up among the United States, Britain, France and Germany, the push for sanctions faces a high hurdle in the Security Council, given Russia and China’s possession of veto power and their opposition to discussion of serious punishment for Iran.

In addition, the sanctions effort may also be hampered by a report to be issued on Thursday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in which inspectors will describe only slow progress by Iran in enriching uranium.

The report, according to diplomats familiar with its contents, will describe how Iran has resumed producing small amounts of enriched uranium since temporarily stopping in the spring, but has not increased the rate of production.

Furthermore, the report is expected to say that the purity of the uranium enrichment would not be high enough for use in nuclear weapons, but only for power plants. Iran has long insisted that its program is for peaceful purposes only.

“The big question is why they appear to be moving so slowly,” said one European official who has been involved in monitoring Iran’s progress. One explanation, the official said, is that the Iranians have not wanted to escalate the confrontation with the Security Council by appearing to be racing ahead in the production of uranium.

Alternative explanations, offered by some Bush administration officials, are that the country’s scientists have run into technical problems or that they are hiding some of their production facilities. The mystery has been deepened by Iran’s recent restrictions on where international inspectors can roam, and its refusal to allow them to see facilities that Iran has not declared to be related to its nuclear program.

The atomic agency’s report is also expected to detail questions that Iran has failed to answer about suspected nuclear activities that it has declined to show to international inspectors.

European and U.S. officials say, for example, that Iran has refused to elaborate on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim earlier this year that the country has an active research project under way using an advanced type of enrichment centrifuge that it obtained from the Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.