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US calls on Iran to confess to trying to make nuclear arms
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    VIENNA, Austria — The U.S. on Friday demanded that Iran confess to trying to make atomic weapons, suggesting that anything short of that would doom an International Atomic Energy Agency probe of Tehran’s nuclear past.
    The call by Gregory L. Schulte, chief U.S. delegate to the Vienna-based IAEA, appeared to set the bar insurmountably high for the investigation by the U.N. agency’s chief, Mohamed ElBaradei.
    There is only about a week left before he reports on the probe’s progress, and Iran has steadfastly denied ever working on a nuclear weapons program.
    Schulte said the ‘‘measure for progress is whether Iran fully discloses its past weapons work and allows IAEA inspectors to verify it’s halted.’’
    ‘‘This,’’ he told reporters, ‘‘includes explaining past work on weapons design and weaponization and the role of the Iranian military.’’
    Schulte spoke a day after diplomats told The Associated Press that the U.S. had recently shared new intelligence on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work. One of them also said that Washington also gave the IAEA permission to confront Iran with at least some of the evidence in an attempt to pry details out of the Islamic republic on the activities.
    Tehran insists its program is intended only to produce energy and has refused U.N. demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program — technology that can produce both fuel for nuclear reactors and the fissile material for a bomb.
    The U.S. is leading the push for a third set of U.N. sanctions against Iran. A recent U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran had a clandestine weapons program but stopped working on it four years ago has hurt Washington’s attempts to have the U.N. Security Council impose the new sanctions.
    A March 3 meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board will evaluate ElBaradei’s efforts to probe Tehran’s nuclear past — including alleged attempts to make weapons. The probe was to have been completed months ago, but agency officials have privately acknowledged it could drag on even past the board meeting.
    Reflecting Western dissatisfaction — and the possibility that ElBaradei’s report would fall short of expectations — Britain, France and the United States have begun consulting on a resolution for the March meeting that would ‘‘draw a line in the sand’’ both for the IAEA chief and Iran, said a diplomat accredited to the agency.
    The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.
    The last board resolution referred Iran to the U.N. Security Council in late 2006. Any new resolution would reflect frustration with Russian and Chinese opposition to tough U.N. sanctions on Iran, he said.
    If ElBaradei’s probe is deemed unsatisfactory, the board, through a new resolution ‘‘has to report to the Security Council that the agency has done all that it can do, and that it cannot guarantee for the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,’’ the diplomat said.
    Iran is already under two sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, which it started developing during nearly two decades of covert nuclear activity built on illicit purchases and revealed only five years ago.
    Since then, IAEA experts have uncovered activities, experiments, and blueprints and materials that point to possible efforts by Iran to create nuclear weapons, even though Tehran insists its nuclear project is peaceful.

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