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New Iran sanctions more likely, or less, after nuclear bomb report?

New report that Iran is amassing more low-enriched uranium – and has enough to make two nuclear bombs – is likely to spur the move toward tougher sanctions. But Israel's raid on Gaza aid flotilla may stall any international action on Iran.

By Staff writer / June 1, 2010


Iran has continued to amass larger quantities of low-enriched uranium and is successfully moving on to a higher degree of enrichment, according to a new report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency.

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The two findings should serve to bolster US efforts to push a new resolution of sanctions on Iran through the UN Security Council, some nuclear and Mideast experts say.

But these same analysts add that Monday’s storming by Israeli commandos of a Turkish-flagged ship carrying aid to Gaza is a new “wild card” in the sanctions diplomacy that could at least put off a resolution vote on Iran. The international uproar over the Israeli raid on the aid flotilla could also mean a sanctions vote is stalled long enough for the resolution to be watered down further, others say.

“I think this new report should have the effect of strengthening the determination of the council to proceed to tougher sanctions,” says James Phillips, a Mideast expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “But now it seems that with this incident with the not-so-peaceful flotilla, the vote may be pushed back – and we could even see some sanctions in [the resolution] stripped out.”

Others say the flotilla incident may delay but will not derail a Security Council resolution, given the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report.

“This flotilla incident is a new wild card that may have thrown a wrench in the timing of a vote,” says David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. “But it’s so clear now [from the IAEA report] that Iran is blowing off the agency and that any pretense they are going to comply [with IAEA requests] is gone,” he adds. “Even China will be worried by Iran’s disregard for the agency.”

Nearing weapons-grade uranium?

The IAEA reported Monday that Iran is successfully enriching a small stock of uranium to nearly 20 percent purity – a development that could mean Iran is preparing the way to move rapidly to the 90-percent level needed for a nuclear weapon. Iran maintains its nuclear program is solely for peaceful power-generation purposes.