The Bush administration stepped up its campaign for tougher sanctions against Iran on Friday after a U.N. report concluded that Tehran had not fully come clean about past activities that U.S. experts say were part of a secret nuclear weapons program.
The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also said Iran is making steady progress in producing enriched uranium - a crucial ingredient in both nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power - in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. But the IAEA reported no evidence that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear device.
The mixed verdict provided fresh ammunition for a White House that is seeking to rally international support for a third U.N. resolution imposing sanctions against the Islamic republic. Hours after the release of the report in Vienna, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there were now "very strong" grounds for moving quickly at the United Nations to pass such a resolution.
As she spoke, the State Department was beginning to lobby allies to pass the long-delayed sanctions resolution. The State Department announced it will host talks on Monday among the world's major powers, including Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, in the hope of getting the resolution passed.
The IAEA concluded that Iran had provided answers to most questions about its nuclear past, with a key exception: It has not responded credibly to U.S. allegations that it conducted weapons research into high explosives and missile design in the 1990s.
Those allegations, based on documents taken from a stolen Iranian laptop in 2004, are part of a case made by U.S. officials to show that Iran had conducted research into building nuclear weapons through the 1990s. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Iran ended its weapons research in 2003.
IAEA officials confronted Iran this month with evidence of its past weapons research, as supplied by the Bush administration. But Iran told IAEA officials that the U.S. claims were "baseless."
Iran's top nuclear negotiator hailed the report as a vindication of Tehran's nuclear policies. "The report showed that our activities are peaceful," Saeed Jalili said.