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U.S.: 'Troubling' details emerge on Iran nuclear program

Ahmadinejad rejects world pressure ahead of IAEA meeting


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VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- A day before a key meeting on Iran's nuclear program, a "troubling" briefing in Vienna revealed new information that Iran might be pursuing nuclear weapons, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday.

"The briefing highlighted many unanswered questions about [Iran's nuclear] program, and it also reported on new questions, including questions pointing directly to a military dimension, including the fabrication of nuclear weapons components and the design of missile re-entry vehicles," Greg Schulte said.

According to media reports, a leaked IAEA report confirmed that Iran had acquired documents and drawings on the black market that served no purpose other than to prepare an atomic warhead.

Schulte said a diplomatic settlement on the issue is possible if Tehran halts its nuclear activity, which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said the accusations are without merit and blamed faulty intelligence.

"We are experiencing the same bitter experience as Iraq," said Ali-Asgh'ar Soltanieh. "We've had 20 of these allegations, and one by one have been proven baseless."

Thursday, the IAEA's 35-member board of governors will hold an emergency session in Vienna to decide whether to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which could issue sanctions against the Islamic state.

Ahead of the meeting, the EU3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- submitted a draft resolution to the IAEA board, requesting that the Security Council address Iran's nuclear activities. The European Union trio had been spearheading talks with Iran.

The resolution said the EU3 "deeply regrets" that Iran -- despite calls to maintain its suspension on nuclear activities -- resumed uranium conversion last summer and "took steps to resume enrichment" last month.

In addition, the resolution "calls on Iran to understand that the board lacks confidence in its intentions in seeking to develop a fissile material production capability" and requests that Iran "extend full and prompt cooperation" to the IAEA.

The resolution has the support of the EU and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

"The reason why we're reporting this to the Security Council is to move diplomacy to a new phase so we can see if we can achieve a political settlement," Schulte said.

However, Soltanieh told CNN that if Iran is referred to the council -- which is considered highly likely -- it would lift its voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment at its nuclear facility in Natanz.

"The government has to stop voluntary cooperation with the IAEA if there is any referral or reporting of Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council," he said.

In order to get Russia and China to sign on, the draft resolution was amended to include a request that the Security Council delay any action against Iran until March, when IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei presents his report on Iran's nuclear program to the board of governors.

That could open the door for negotiations on a proposal under which Russia would enrich uranium for Iran. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Wednesday that Iran is considering the proposal along with several others, "but we don't see any sign of life in this plan at the time being."

"If they give us enough time to consider Russia's proposal, then there will be more opportunities," Larijani said, noting that the proposal does not rule out enrichment in Iran.

"There are several parts in this proposal," he noted.

Last-ditch diplomacy

Meanwhile, a flurry of diplomacy took place Wednesday, a last-ditch effort before the IAEA meeting to get Tehran to back off its stance.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, telling him not to walk away from Iran's agreement with the IAEA and not to make threats, a British foreign office spokesman said.

Before the meeting, Straw told BBC radio that he would urge Mottaki "to see this agreed position by the international community not as a threat but as ... a final opportunity to put itself back on track."

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Bush said the world must act together to prevent Iran joining the list of nuclear-armed nations.

"The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions -- and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons," Bush said in his speech. "America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats." (Full story)

In Tehran, representatives from China and Russia carried the same message to Iranian officials in what European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana called "one last effort to try to reach an agreement" before Thursday's IAEA meeting.

Iranian officials showed no sign of backing off their refusal to halt nuclear activity in the wake of international pressure.

"Our nation can't give in to the coercion of some bully countries who imagine they are the whole world and see themselves equal to the entire globe," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech Wednesday.

Speaking in Bushehr, the site of Iran's nuclear power plant, the Iranian leader stood by the country's commitment to its nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes. (Ahmadinejad defiant)

"Nuclear energy is our right, and we will resist until this right is fully realized," Ahmadinejad said.

Larijani said Wednesday that if the matter is referred to the Security Council, "it would be an improper and unsatisfactory measure which means a country would be punished for conducting research," the state news agency, IRNA, reported.

The U.S. believes Tehran has stepped up its preparations to enrich uranium ahead of a possible referral to the U.N. Security Council, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

Since breaking IAEA seals at its nuclear facilities last month, Iranian nuclear activity has been "pretty consistent," with Tehran moving equipment to its nuclear facility at Natanz in preparation for enriching uranium -- activity the U.S. believes could be aimed at producing fissile material for a nuclear bomb, the official said. (Full story)

CNN's Elise Labott, Richard Roth and journalist Christian Mahne contributed to this report

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