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U.N. Report Due on Iran's Nuclear Progress

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Okay, this is the day that U.N. nuclear monitors give a report on Iran, and there's not much doubt about what they're going to say. Iran has not stopped enriching uranium.

Now a U.N. Security Council resolution in December imposed limited sanctions on Iran in an effort to stop that enrichment and it threatened more sanctions if Iran did not quit by the deadline this week.

NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS: It's no secret that Iran is still enriching uranium. Iranian leaders say it's their right to do that under the global treaty governing nuclear technology because they say they are pursuing this program to produce electricity, not bombs.

The report expected today is likely to trigger, over the next few weeks, a push from the U.S. for the Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran that are broader than the sanctions that were approved in December. Those mainly target trade and assets of people thought to be tied to the nuclear program.

But even that narrow sanctions resolution was a hard sell, particularly to Security Council members Russia and China. A second resolution will also take time. And the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, makes it clear he believes sanctions alone will never resolve this issue.

In an extensive interview this week, Mohamed ElBaradei told the Financial Times newspaper that everybody knows sanctions aren't the answer. And while intelligence reports suggests Iran is five to 10 years away from a bomb, a year or two of sanctions in counter-retaliations, ElBaradei said, would make terrorism and militancy worse across the Middle East.

He said a military strike would be catastrophic, not eliminate Iranian scientists' know-how and send Tehran into overdrive in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The report from the IAEA will leave aside those judgments. It's a compilation of inspectors' findings.

Iran says it is looking for ways to get to the negotiating table to resolve this standoff, but it won't stop enrichment before talking and the U.S. says that's the minimum requirement. If any progress on negotiations is made in the next two weeks before the IAEA board approves the report, it could be amended.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.
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