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U.N. Security Council gets report on Iran

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An aerial photo shows the Natanz nuclear complex, where Iran resumed operations in January.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council formally received notification Tuesday about Iran and its nuclear program from the International Atomic Energy Agency, opening the door toward potential sanctions against Tehran.

The dispute centers on whether Iran wants nuclear capability for energy or arms.

Iran insists it has only peaceful nuclear ambitions but France, Germany, the United Kingdom and United States have expressed concern that Iran's nuclear activities could be aimed at acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Tuesday's letter from IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the current Security Council president, comes after the nuclear watchdog's weekend vote in favor of reporting Iran to the council.

The United States left copies of the letter and a packet of information about the IAEA and Iran on the seats of the other 14 Security Council member nations before a Tuesday meeting at U.N. headquarters.

A U.S. mission spokesman noted that "the process has begun."

But it remains unknown what action, if any, the Security Council will take should Iran fail to cooperate with the nuclear watchdog.

In a letter of its own this week, Iran told the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA to remove surveillance equipment from its nuclear sites by mid-February.

Iran had warned it would stop honoring the "additional protocol" to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if it were referred to the Security Council.

The protocol allows for such oversight as snap inspections, IAEA seals on nuclear equipment and greater surveillance of Tehran's nuclear facilities.

The letter told the IAEA it would stop cooperating with the protocol and would return to the bare minimum of cooperation as outlined by the treaty.

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