A report released Thursday showing a slow but steady expansion of Iran’s nuclear technology has exposed a new divide between the United Nations arms inspectors and the United States and its allies over how to contain Tehran’s atomic program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said in its report that Tehran was being unusually cooperative in agreeing to answer questions about an array of suspicious nuclear activities that have led many nations to believe it is concealing an effort to make nuclear arms. The report added that although Tehran’s uranium enrichment effort is growing, the output is far less than what experts had expected.
“This is the first time Iran is ready to discuss all the outstanding issues which triggered the crisis in confidence,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director general, said in an interview. “It’s a significant step.”
But the Bush administration and its allies, which have won sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council in an effort to stop uranium enrichment, saw the new report as more evidence of defiance, not cooperation.
“There is no partial credit here,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday. “Iran has refused to comply with its international obligations, and, as a result of that, the international community is going to continue to ratchet up the pressure.”
In Paris, Pascale Andreani, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that as long as Iran does not give a clear decision about suspending its enrichment activities, France will work with others to tighten the sanctions.
In the interview, ElBaradei stopped short of calling for a delay in the U.S.-led strategy to impose new sanctions, but said: “I’m clear at this stage you need to give Iran a chance to prove its stated goodwill. Sanctions alone, I know for sure, are not going to lead to a durable solution.”
The report released Thursday, a quarterly update of Iran’s nuclear activity, said it is operating nearly 2,000 centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, at its vast underground facility at Natanz, an increase of several hundred machines from three months ago. More than 650 additional centrifuges are being tested or are under construction, the agency said.