WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell hinted Monday that Iran could face the prospect of U.N. economic sanctions if it did not prove to the world it has no nuclear weapons program.
Powell, after meeting with Mohamed ElBaradei (search), the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search), said, "The international community is expecting them to answer its questions and to respond fully."
In September, when the U.N. agency holds its next scheduled meeting, "judgments can be made as to what action might be appropriate," Powell said.
His statement followed an assertion in Tehran by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search), Iran's supreme leader, that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons. At the same time, the ayatollah vowed Iran would not give up its program to enrich uranium for fuel in nuclear reactors.
"If Europeans and others are really worried that we may acquire nuclear weapons, we assure them that we are not seeking to produce such weapons," the ayatollah said.
"But if they are unhappy about Iran's access to the outstanding nuclear technology and want to stop this trend, I tell them they should be assured that the Iranian nation won't give in on this," he told a gathering of university officials.
Last Friday, the U.N. nuclear agency rebuked Iran for covering up its programs and warned it had little time left to disprove it had a nuclear weapons program.
Powell said Monday he had told ElBaradei he was very satisfied with the agency's work. "We hope that in the weeks and months ahead the Iranians will satisfy all the concerns that members of the international community still have," Powell said.
ElBaradei, at a joint news conference, said, "We need to bring this issue to a close as soon as we can."
"The international community is urgently seeking assurance from the agency that Iran's program is exclusively for a peaceful purpose," ElBaradei said.
He said Iran should become "pro-active, transparent and fully cooperative."