U.S. Consulting Other Nations on Restraining Iran's Nuke Program

Concern about Iran (search)'s nuclear program is prompting the Bush administration to consult with other nations on how the international watchdog agency can apply restraints.

The result could be a proposed resolution for the meeting Monday in Vienna, Austria, of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search).

"We would look for the board to take appropriate action," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher (search) said Thursday. He did not elaborate, saying only "the board can take actions of various kinds."

Nor would he or other State Department officials describe what the resolution might say. There apparently was no decision yet within the department.

A diplomat at U.N. headquarters in New York said the United States is trying to decide whether to seek an immediate resolution declaring that Iran is not complying with its obligations to be open to U.N. inspections of its nuclear activities, or whether to press for a resolution of condemnation that would warn Iran to come into compliance.

U.S. officials are sounding out other nations on the 35-member board of governors of the IAEA to see which resolution would get consensus, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. If the United States opts for a resolution of condemnation, it still could seek a tougher noncompliance resolution at the board's November meeting if Iran does not come into compliance, the diplomat said.

American diplomats approached other governments last week and again this week, telling them it was time for the IAEA to report Iran's noncompliance with inspection requirements to the United Nations, a senior U.S. official said.

In Paris, meanwhile, Undersecretary of State John Bolton was holding parallel talks about Iran with officials from nations attending a conference designed to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology.

Iran's president said last Saturday his country was not seeking to make atomic weapons, but he insisted on a right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Mohammad Khatami's comments followed a meeting in Tehran with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who urged Iran to clear up questions about its nuclear program and allow unfettered inspections of related sites.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the IAEA's chief, has said traces of weapons-grade uranium have been found at a nuclear facility at Natanz in central Iran.

But it was not clear what the watchdog agency could do about it. ElBaradei has said the IAEA needs more power and more cooperation to deal with Iran and North Korea.

He said they "have been giving the international community the run-around" on nuclear programs and possible weapons ambitions.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday urged Iran to permit rigorous inspections of its nuclear sites and to stop supporting terror groups.

"It is important both that they adhere completely to the demands of the international community in respect of nuclear weapons and that they cease all support of terrorist groups," he said.