IRAN is expected to thwart American attempts to send its nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council this week, despite a fresh flurry of concerns about its apparent ambitions to make a bomb.
Iran has pledged to suspend all activities linked to uranium enrichment an important stage on the way to making a bomb under a tentative deal last week with Britain, France and Germany.
Tehran is due to announce the formal start of the suspension tomorrow. This will leave international inspectors barely 72 hours to verify the country is honouring its commitments before it is the subject of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Thursday.
Fresh doubts have emerged over Irans intentions, however, after claims it has been going flat out in the run-up to the deadline to process feed material for the manufacture of bomb-grade uranium. The allegations, made by non-US diplomats in Vienna, follow an intensification of Washingtons war of words with Tehran.
Colin Powell, the outgoing US secretary of state, last week accused Iran of trying to adapt its latest ballistic missile to carry nuclear warheads capable of hitting targets as far away as Israel and Cyprus.
Separately, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition group, claimed that uranium was being enriched in the capital out of sight of IAEA inspectors.
President George W Bush said yesterday he was concerned by the latest reports to emerge about Tehrans nuclear programme. The world knows its a serious matter, he said.
Hawks in Washington have been pressing in vain for months for Iran to be taken before the security council, which could impose sanctions. But America has failed to secure the backing of Britain, France and Germany, which have argued for a negotiated solution.
American officials acknowledged that the chances of pushing through their policy had receded even further after last weeks deal, under which the three European countries pledged to help Iran develop a peaceful nuclear programme.
British officials have played down differences with America, claiming the deal with Iran will be called off if Tehran fails to provide clear evidence that the enrichment programme really has been ended.
The key to this whole thing is in the implementation, said a Foreign Office official. We are not going to take Irans word for it, we are going to take Irans deed for it.