The clock is ticking on the UN’s August 31 deadline for Iran to suspend its nuclear program, and yet Iran has not changed its course:

VIENNA, Austria — Iran has kept enriching uranium despite the threat of UN sanctions and a looming deadline to freeze such operations, UN and European officials said Wednesday.

The officials said Iran had continued to enrich uranium until at least Tuesday.

Its ongoing enrichment could act as a trigger for action by the UN Security Council, which had set Thursday as the final day for Tehran to freeze such activity.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was confidential, said Iran had also snubbed overtures from world powers for a new meeting on its nuclear program.

Iranian defiance on enrichment will be detailed in a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency due Thursday. The newest Iranian enrichment of uranium — the latest in a series of such activities in the past few months — was first reported Wednesday by The Washington Post, and diplomats told The Associated Press that it had continued at least into Tuesday.

Immediate sanctions are unlikely, as permanent council members Russia and China are expected to resist U.S.-led efforts for a quick response.

A senior European official said Tehran has not responded to a recent European Union offer, on behalf of the five Security Council members plus Germany, to discuss Tehran’s terms for new nuclear talks. The further sign of Iran’s willingness to confront the international community is likely to fuel Washington’s push for swift economic sanctions, Inspectors for the Vienna-based IAEA remained in Iran Wednesday as they continued gathering information that will go into Thursday’s non-public report. While their most recent findings were not available Wednesday afternoon, a senior UN official said that Iranian centrifuges were enriching small quantities of uranium gas as late as Tuesday.

Full article here.

Meanwhile, speculation continues to grow over whether Kim Jong-Il is ready to unleash a nuclear test, or just another movie project. China has joined the chorus of the concerned, recently demonstrating a lack of patience with its weird little neighbor that has prompted speculation that Kim has secretly gone to visit the Chinese:

International concerns about a possible North Korean nuclear test increased today with reports that Kim Jong-il may have crossed the border into China to explain his military provocations to uneasy allies in Beijing.

According to the South Korean media, satellites have tracked a special North Korean train, the usual form of transport for Mr Kim, entering Chinese territory. If confirmed, it would be his second trip to Beijing in less than a year – an unheard-of flurry of diplomacy for a notoriously travel-shy figurehead.

The reports are impossible to verify, but they come amid growing signs of Chinese anger with Mr Kim over last month’s missile tests, and regional anxiety about his next move. Earlier this month, the South Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun, requested an emergency summit with Beijing’s leaders.

Full article here. Apparently China has expressed its displeasure with Kim by reducing its grain imports to the starving country by more than half this year.

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