US President George W. Bush said Monday that Russian deliveries of nuclear fuel to Iran only fed the need for the world to clamp down more firmly on Tehran's home-grown atomic work.
And the US State Department announced consultations Tuesday with five other powers on a draft UN Security Council resolution imposing tougher sanctions on the Islamic republic for refusing to freeze uranium enrichment.
"Iran was a threat to peace, Iran is a threat to peace, and Iran will be a threat to peace if we don't stop their enrichment," which can be a critical step towards getting nuclear arms, Bush told a town-hall style audience here.
The White House said Moscow had advised Washington about the shipments, and noted pledges from top Russian officials that the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), would supervise the process.
The US president said he supported the deliveries to Iran's first atomic power station, the unfinished Bushehr plant, but stressed that they showed that Iran had no legitimate need to enrich uranium at home.
"If the Russians are willing to do that -- which I support -- then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich. If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich," he said.
"They're heading down a path of isolation right now and economic sanctions. We passed two resolutions out of the UN and (US Secretary of State) Condi Rice is working on a third," Bush said.
The United States has been involved in protracted negotiations with Russia, China, Britain and France -- the five permanent UN Security Council members, or P5, that all have veto power -- and Germany.
"There will be another conference call among the P5 plus one tomorrow morning," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. "And I'm sure we'll have an opportunity to discuss the elements of this next resolution."
The so-called two-track strategy aims at offering Iran a dialogue that could give it economic and diplomatic benefits if it stops enriching uranium, or at threatening a third round of punitive sanctions.
US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the deliveries were not a sign of fissuring international support for UN sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to freeze uranium enrichment.
"The international community remains united in its desire to see the Iranian regime comply with its United Nations Security Council resolutions," he said.
The political directors of the US State Department and foreign ministries of the five other countries held a 90-minute conference call on December 11 about Iran's nuclear program, but did not finalize a draft sanctions resolution.
Rice admitted afterward that the United States has "tactical differences" with Russia and China about the "timing, about the nature of any further sanctions."
But she said that "the two-track strategy remains in place," when asked if the National Intelligence Estimate, published December 3, undercut the US drive for sanctions.
The report said Iran had stopped an alleged nuclear weapons program in 2003, undercutting Washington's increasingly alarmed rhetoric. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
Bush said the findings proved Iran was "a danger to peace" because "if somebody had a weapons program, what's to say they couldn't start it up tomorrow? Since they tried to hide their program before, how would we know?"
"They owe an explanation to the world," he said.
Enriched uranium is needed for nuclear power stations, but can, with further enrichment, be turned into weapons-making material. Iran has defied two rounds of UN sanctions aimed at forcing it to halt such sensitive work.
Iran confirmed the Russian shipment and, in a fresh show of defiance toward the West, repeated that it would refuse the UN demands.
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