WASHINGTON – Denouncing Iran's nuclear activities, the Bush administration expressed confidence Wednesday that the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency would report the controversial program to the Security Council.
"The message that is going to be sent very clearly to Iran is that they have crossed the line," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said as the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors completed its findings.
"We expect that measure to pass and so Iran will find itself before the Security Council," McCormack said.
He said the report, drafts of which were circulating at the State Department, raised "troubling questions" about linkages between Iran's enrichment activities and a military program.
"You do that because you want to create a nuclear weapon," McCormack said.
While U.N. inspectors have been unable to go to all suspected Iranian facilities, McCormack said, "we are seeing more and more indications" that Iran's enrichment activities have the intended purpose of building a nuclear weapon.
The spokesman rejected threats by Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, to halt U.N. inspections and resume large-scale enrichment of uranium.
"If followed through (they) would take Iran in just the opposite direction that this world is calling on them to go," McCormack said.
He also denounced Iran as "the central banker for terrorism in the Middle East."
Under an agreement reached this week with Russia and China, the IAEA will send the dispute to the Security Council but will defer for at least five weeks any action against Iran, such as diplomatic or economic punishment, if Iran refuses to resume negotiations or reverse course.
President Bush discussed Iran in a telephone call Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and thanked him for Russia's offer to divert enrichment activities to Russia in an effort to keep an eye on the process and make sure they are designed for civilian use.
"They both agreed that it was important to stay in close contact as we move forward to address this issue," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "I think both leaders have a shared concern about Iran developing a nuclear weapon under the guise of a civilian program."
The administration wants Russia to take a tough line on Iran at the United Nations, and officials have suggested Russia, for geographic reasons, has at least as much cause for concern as the United States.
But Russia is conflicted, wanting also to preserve its commercial and military ties to Iran.
Bush's conversation was one of many approaches the administration has made to Russia.