The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has issued its most detailed report to date on Iran's nuclear program.
Photo taken on Aug. 21, 2010 shows a view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. [Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua]
Even before being released, the IAEA report sparked a war of words between Tel aviv and Tehran with Israel threatening to target Iran's alleged nuclear installations.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Perez said the likelihood of a military attack to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons was "now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option ".
On Monday, Iran sought to cast the impending report as part of propaganda campaign orchestrated by the United States and Israel to justify a military attack on its nuclear facilities.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said its nuclear ambitions are peaceful in nature. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "Iran will not stop its nuclear work despite media speculation that Israel was considering military threats."
"Anyone acting against Iran would gravely regret" a military attack, he added, according to news agency IRNA.
On Wednesday, Iranian officials rejected the IAEA document's conclusions saying "the report was completely unbalanced and shows a lack of professionalism because it is responding to political motives".
From the U.S. point of view, accusing Tehran of wrongdoing and conducting a unilateral military operation in Iran would be extremely risky and unlikely. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell came to regret the case he made before the 2003 Iraq war about mobile biological weapons labs and other suspected sites existing in the country.
Hence the Obama administration wants the IAEA to spearhead the charge in Iran. It still has the international credibility that Washington does not.
"They launched a military operation in Iraq under a similar pretext which led to the killing of thousands of innocent people. But later it became evident that all the information was wrong," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi said on Sunday.
In order to avoid destabilizing the region, Russia has urged IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano not to make details of the report public.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that any military strike against Iran would be "a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences".
The Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday told Israeli radio that he did not expect the IAEA to persuade countries to impose what he called "lethal sanctions on Iran" to pressure Tehran to dismantle its nuclear installations.
"As long as no such sanctions have been imposed and proven effective, we continue to recommend to our friends in the world and to ourselves, not to take any option off the table," he said.
The UN has already imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran, but experts say none have succeeded in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Instead of military action, diplomatic channels continue to be used to pressure Tehran. Tel Aviv is currently discussing new sanctions with the US and France.
Analysts say Washington and its western allies tried to use the IAEA report as leverage to reinforce sanctions.
In the report's conclusion, the IAEA demands that Iran clarify its position. The 35-nation IAEA board of governors will now decide whether to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. Diplomats believe this option is unlikely due to the differing views among member states of the board.
Noting China was still studying the IAEA report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China advocates using peaceful means to resolve the Iran nuclear issue.
Resuming talks between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany is a top priority, along with stepping up cooperation between IAEA and Iran, Hong said at the daily press briefing.
"All parties should do more to promote dialogue and cooperation," Hong said.
While France called for "sanctions of unprecedented proportions" against Iran, Russia refused to support new, tougher sanctions against the country over its nuclear program.
"Any additional sanctions against Iran will be seen in the international community as an instrument for regime change in Iran. That approach is unacceptable to us, and the Russian side does not intend to consider such proposals," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.