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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Nuclear Watchdog Seeks High-Level Mission to Iran

November 17, 2011

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog wants to send a high-level mission to Iran to see whether its controversial nuclear program has "possible military dimensions."

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said Thursday he put the request in writing to Iran's top nuclear officials earlier this month, and that he hoped a date can be agreed upon soon.

He spoke at the opening of a two-day meeting by the IAEA's 35-nation board of directors in Vienna. The meeting is the first for the agency since it alleged last week that there is "credible" evidence Tehran is trying to build nuclear weapons.

Western diplomats say delegates at the meeting have neared an agreement on a resolution that calls for Iran to answer questions about its nuclear program. However, they say the measure stops short of reporting Tehran to the U.N. Security Council.

Diplomats say the board is expected to approve the measure by Friday.

The United States and several European countries have been pushing for the nuclear watchdog to come down hard on Iran for its nuclear program. But Russia and China expressed skepticism about last week's IAEA report. Russian officials dismissing the findings as nothing new.

Iran rejected the report and has continually denied allegations it is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Recent reports in the Israeli media said Israel's government has been considering a military strike on Iran's nuclear sites. And Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned during a U.S. television interview that Iran could spark a new, nuclear arms race if it gets a nuclear bomb.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said Tehran will respond to any military strike by Israel or its main ally the United States with "strong slaps and iron fists."

The U.N. Security Council has passed four sets of sanctions on Iran for refusing to stop nuclear activities that have both civilian and military uses.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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