IAEA: Iran May Be Working On Nuclear Warhead

A new U.N. nuclear agency report says Iran may be working on making a nuclear warhead. The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency boosts U.S. calls for sanctions against Tehran. The Islamic republic insists its program is peaceful.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency has suggested that Iran may be working on a nuclear warhead. The White House responded to the latest report by the nuclear watchdog agency by calling on countries around the world to, again, step up the pressure on Tehran.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: It was the first report written by the IAEA's new director Yukiya Amano of Japan. And the language was said to be particularly blunt. The IAEA report says there are concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.

The U.S. intelligence community had thought that such work was suspended in 2003, although that assessment has been under review and questioned by many U.S. allies.

The report by the IAEA suggests that the suspect Iranian activity has either resumed or never stopped. The report also confirms Iran's claims that it's been able to enriched small amounts of uranium to near 20 percent to fuel a medical research reactor that also mostly closer to the ability to make weapons-grade uranium if Iran decides to do so. The Iranian government has always said that its nuclear program is peaceful.

The latest IAEA report comes as the U.S. tries to rally the United Nations Security Council to impose new sanctions on Iran. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says the report shows how Iran has failed to cooperate with the IAEA.

Mr. P.J. CROWLEY (Spokesman, State Department): It characterizes the way in which Iran has conducted its relations with the IAEA and its failure to satisfactorily explain, you know, what its activities and ambitions are in the nuclear sphere.

KELEMEN: He added that the conclusions in the report are consistent with what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been saying on her just ended trip to Qatar and Saudi Arabia where she dispensed with most of the usual qualifiers and said she believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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