VIENNA - The UN atomic watchdog is expected to spell out in more detail soon the reasons for its growing concern that Iran may be working covertly to develop a nuclear missile, diplomats say.

Such a move by the International Atomic Energy Agency, possibly in a new quarterly report on Iran due early next month, could raise pressure on Tehran and offer more arguments for Western powers to tighten sanctions on the major oil producer.

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The United States and its allies have urged IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to declare plainly whether he believes that there have been military aspects to Tehran's nuclear activities and whether such work may still be going on.

It remains to be seen whether the report's conclusion will be sufficiently clear-cut to prompt the agency's 35-nation board of governors to take action at a Nov. 17-18 meeting, possibly by reporting Iran once again to the UN Security Council.

"Many countries have called on Amano to give his best possible assessment of the possible military dimension of Iran's nuclear program," one Western envoy said.

But it is hard to know now what Amano will say and it is "much too early to make a judgment" on whether it could provide the basis for referring the issue to the Security Council in New York, as happened in 2006, the diplomat added.

A divided board decided in June to report Syria, Iran's ally, to the Security Council for stonewalling an IAEA probe into a suspected reactor site that was bombed by Israel in 2007.

Russia and China opposed the US-led diplomatic crackdown on Syria, highlighting big power rifts that the West would want to avoid in any similar IAEA board vote on Iran.

"Russia and China appear to be in no mood for imposing additional pressure on Iran without a pressing reason for concern," said Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the Federation of American Scientists think-tank.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat


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