msnbc.com news services
updated 9/1/2004 11:21:19 PM ET 2004-09-02T03:21:19

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States wants U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran after the Bush administration concluded the country is on the verge of enriching enough uranium for four nuclear weapons.

The new alarms were raised after the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency circulated a classified report among member governments about Iran’s nuclear program.

Powell said the United States wants the U.N. Security Council to impose economic, political and/or diplomatic sanctions against Iran because of steps he believes Iran is taking toward developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking with reporters after a daylong trip to Panama, Powell said the administration will push hard for the IAEA to refer the Iran issue to the Security Council for action when the nuclear watchdog group holds a board meeting Sept. 13.

Acknowledging that many board members do not favor Security Council action against Iran at this time, Powell said he will consult with Germany, Britain and France and other IAEA board members about Iran in the coming days.

‘Great concern’
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said that Washington viewed Iran’s plans to process 37 tons of raw “yellowcake” uranium “with great concern” and said Tehran was a threat to global peace.

Iran announced plans to turn tons of uranium into a substance that can be used to make nuclear weapons, the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said in a report earlier Wednesday.

“Iran’s announcements are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran’s nuclear program to the Security Council,” the Bolton said in a statement to Reuters. The U.N. Security Council can impose economic sanctions.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said Iranian technicians had told its inspectors they planned to convert 37 tons of yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride.

IAEA report
The confidential report of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the agency had been informed that the Islamic Republic planned to process more than 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride.

Uranium hexafluoride is spun in centrifuges to produce enriched uranium, which in turn can be used to generate power or make nuclear warheads, depending on the degree of enrichment.

A senior diplomat familiar with the agency declined to say how much hexafluoride could be obtained from that amount of raw uranium, also known as yellowcake, beyond saying it was a “substantial amount.”

Another diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that enough highly enriched uranium could be produced from the hexafluoride derived to make several explosive devices.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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