November 3, 2011 / 12:47 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. says IAEA report on Iran next week critical

An Iranian atomic energy official is seen at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 350 km (217 miles) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008. REUTERS/Presidential official website/Handout

CANNES, France, NOV 3 -

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A report due next week from the IAEA nuclear watchdog will be an important opportunity for the world to assess whether Iran is meeting international obligations in its nuclear program, the White House said on Thursday.

Earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama said he had discussed his concerns about Iran and its nuclear program with French President Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of the G20 summit, and both had agreed that international pressure must be maintained on Iran.

“The IAEA is scheduled to release a report on Iran’s nuclear program next week and President Sarkozy and I agree on the need to maintain the unprecedented pressure on Iran to meet its obligations,” he told reporters.

The United States and its partners are concerned that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon capability. Tehran says the program is peaceful and is aimed at producing energy and for medical purposes.

Western opponents of Tehran hope the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report will make a firm assessment that it believes Iran is working to develop a nuclear weapon; but it is not clear if it will go that far.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have been under additional strain since U.S. officials last month announced an alleged Iranian plot, which Tehran denies, to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.

Obama warned at the time that Iran would suffer the “toughest possible” sanctions as a consequence and the White House cast Obama’s discussion as part of that effort.

“What we’re focused on is a diplomatic strategy which...increases the pressure on the Iranians, through financial pressure, through economic sanctions, through diplomatic isolation,” said White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, in response to a question about military options toward Iran.

Writing by Luke Baker and Alister Bull

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