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November deadline for Iran

France, Britain and Germany have met a key U.S. demand by proposing a November deadline for Iran to dispel concern that it has a covert atom bomb program, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters. But the draft does not order Tehran to be automatically reported to the U.N. Security Council if it does not meet the deadline, as Washington wishes. Reuters was shown the draft, which will be revised before being formally submitted to the board of governors of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The draft says the board will "probably" consider whether further steps are needed after receiving IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's next report on Iran in November. The IAEA has been investigating Tehran's nuclear program ever since Iranian exiles reported in 2002 that Tehran was hiding a uranium enrichment plant and a heavy water facility. Washington accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons under cover of an atomic energy program, a charge Iran vehemently denies. The IAEA has found many previously concealed nuclear activities in Iran but no "smoking gun" backing the U.S. view. The United States had originally hoped that the IAEA board would report Iran next week to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, for violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by concealing potentially weapons-related activities for nearly two decades. According to the Telegraph, Iran's decision to begin processing 37 tons of uranium yellowcake this month will enable it to acquire enough weapons grade uranium to build up to five nuclear bombs, Western intelligence officials are warning. The Iranians announced their intention to process the material last week in a submission to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose 35-member Board of Governors will meet tomorrow to discuss whether the Iranians are being truthful about their nuclear programme. Although the Iranians insist that their uranium-processing programme is intended solely to provide fuel for the country's new nuclear power plants, Western scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about glaring discrepancies in Teheran's official submission on its nuclear programme to the IAEA, the international nuclear watchdog. Suspicions about the true extent of Iran's nuclear programme have intensified since The Sunday Telegraph revealed last year that traces of enriched uranium had been found at a secret processing plant at Natanz in central Iran. The Iranians claimed that a consignment of research equipment delivered from Pakistan had been contaminated before it was brought into the country. The International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meets behind closed doors Monday to discuss whether failures by Iran and South Korea to fully declare nuclear experiments should go to the United Nations Security Council. It was only last year that the IAEA learned of Iran's ambitious nuclear program, which had been kept secret from the world for almost two decades. Since then, the U.N. nuclear watchdog has struggled to assess whether Tehran's nuclear capability is part of a concerted plan to build nuclear weapons. A resolution passed by the IAEA board in June complained that Iran had not declared equipment for a nuclear research reactor that could produce bomb grade plutonium. The IAEA says there are indications that plutonium already produced by Iran is more recent than Tehran claims. The IAEA says that in some cases, despite repeated requests, information was provided by Tehran too late to be analyzed for next week's meeting. An internal IAEA report mentions one site that was considered relevant to Tehran's nuclear activities that was razed to the ground by Iranian authorities. The IAEA says Iran refused to give the agency a list of equipment used at the center, citing security reasons. In June, Iran removed IAEA seals on sensitive equipment with the knowledge of, but in the absence of, international inspectors. Iran returned the seals to the IAEA and announced it would restart the manufacture, testing and assembly of nuclear equipment that can be used in a civilian or a military program, reports VOANews.

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