The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammad el-Baradei said his report on Iran will be forwarded to the Security Council which will use it to determine what action if any should be taken against Iran, including sanctions.
That report accuses Iran of withholding information, possessing plans linked to nuclear weapons and refusing to freeze uranium enrichment.
El-Baradei released the report on the third and final day of an IAEA meeting in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program.
El-Baradei said he was still optimistic the standoff could be resolved through negotiations.
"I am still optimistic because I think, sooner or later, all the parties will realize that there is no other option but to go back to negotiation, that Iran will understand that they need to be transparent," he said. "If they want to restore the confidence of the international community, they need to take confidence-building measures."
An Iranian national security official, Javad Vaeedi, warned the United States that Iran could inflict "harm and pain" to match whatever punishment Washington persuades the Security Council to mete out.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Washington plans "a concerted approach" in the Security Council that "gradually escalates pressure on Iran."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sanctions against Iran would not work and that the standoff could not be resolved militarily.
The Security Council debate over Iran may start as early as next week.
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.