The European Union said Wednesday it shares U.N. fears that Tehran may be secretly working on developing nuclear missiles and expressed support for new sanctions if Tehran continues to defy Security Council demands meant to ease fears about its atomic ambitions.
An unusually strongly worded statement delivered by Spain on behalf of the EU to the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board criticized Tehran on a wide range of issues linked to concerns that its nuclear program may be a front for clandestine efforts to make atomic warheads.
"The EU shares the agency's concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile," said the statement.
The comments reflected the change in tone of IAEA in its assessment of Iran's nuclear strivings under Yukiya Amano, the agency's new director general. Amano, in a recent report prepared for this week's board meeting, expressed the possibility that Iran may currently be working on making a nuclear warhead, with the IAEA suggesting for the first time that Tehran had either resumed such work or never stopped three years ago, as thought by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Iran denies any interest in developing nuclear arms. But the report said Iran's resistance to agency attempts to probe for signs of a nuclear cover-up "give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
Iran is weathering three sets of Security Council sanctions meant to punish its refusal to freeze its uranium enrichment program, which can be re-engineered to produce highly enriched, weapons grade uranium instead of its present low-enriched output.
Its recent rejection of a plan meant to strip it of most of its enriched stockpile and to start enriching to higher levels plus its belated acknowledgment that it had been secretly building a new enrichment facility has increased sentiment for a fourth set.
The U.S., Britain and France support such a measure, and Russia — which is normally opposed — appears to be moving closer to embracing the Western view, leaving only fellow permanent Security Council member China — which depends an Iran for much of its energy needs — opposed.
Wednesday's EU statement also expressed support for new U.N. Security Council "action" if Iran continues its nuclear defiance — diplomatic language for a fourth set of U.N. sanctions.
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