Iran Looks for IAEA Clean Bill

VIENNA, Austria -- Tehran expects the UN Security Council to close the file on its nuclear activities once it has answered all questions about its past atomic programs, a senior Iranian envoy said Thursday, in an indirect challenge to the United States.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, also urged Washington to "come out of ... isolation" and recognize that Tehran is cooperating fully with an IAEA probe into its past.

"The policy of the carrot and the stick ... [has] always been counterproductive," he said of a U.S.-led push for new UN sanctions over his country's refusal to give up uranium enrichment.

The Council's three permanent Western members, the United States, France and Britain, back such a push. Russia and China are opposed, leaving the likelihood of new sanctions unclear.

"There is no legal and technological justification" for continued Security Council involvement once the IAEA declares an end to its current probe, Soltanieh said outside a Vienna meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board. "There's no justification for sanctions."

Inside the meeting, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told delegates that his agency knows less now about Iran's atomic activities than it did a year ago.

ElBaradei also said his agency still did not know about military applications of what Iran says is a civilian program. However, he praised Iran for providing answers about its nuclear past.