Howard LaFranchi

November 5, 2011

WASHINGTON – Iran’s nuclear program will come roaring back to the center of international attention next week when the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency unveils a new report that is expected to offer evidence of Tehran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

The Iranian nuclear crisis has largely retreated from headlines since the collapse in October 2009 of an international deal for removing from Iran part of the country’s growing stockpile of enriched uranium. But the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna next week is likely to shift the spotlight back to Tehran.

Expect renewed talk of stronger international sanctions and revived speculation about the likelihood of an Israeli or US-led campaign of targeted strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, some international nuclear experts say.

“The IAEA seems to have more information to come forward with on Iran, and the tone [of the agency’s assessment] is harsher and harsher,” says one senior Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss an as-yet-unpublished report. If the evidence is solid of efforts to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon, the diplomat adds, “We will have to be very firm against Iran.”

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