WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House voted Monday to withhold U.S. contributions to International Atomic Energy Agency programs helping Iran build a nuclear power plant.

The measure, passed 383-1, states that contributions to the IAEA can be released only if the Secretary of State certifies that Iran is not using the money to gain expertise in nuclear weapons or acquire sensitive nuclear technology.

``Clearly, when we suspect that Iran has the requisite technology to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level, it is not a wise idea to help them in their efforts to locate more of it,'' said Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the chief sponsor.

The United States currently provides for more than 25 percent of the budget of the IAEA, a U.N. agency that works to ensure the safety of power plants.

It also has provided one-third of the funding, $18.3 million in voluntary contributions in 1999, for the IAEA's technical assistance and cooperation fund. So far, the IAEA has given Iran $1.6 million from that fund to complete the $800 million Bushehr nuclear power plant on the Persian Gulf. The plant has one reactor, but late last year Iran asked Moscow to conduct a feasibility study on building three more reactors on the same site.

In January, the Clinton administration imposed sanctions on Moscow University and two other Russian institutions, accusing them of failing to stop their scientists from helping Iran develop nuclear weapons.

Rep. Ben Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said Iran plans to have three nuclear plants operating by 2015, a goal the United States opposes because of fears of nuclear weapons proliferation.

With its immense oil and natural gas reserves, ``we must question Iran's motives for developing nuclear power,'' Menendez said.

The House passed a similar bill last year but the Senate did not vote on it. The Senate has a parallel bill this year but has yet to take it up.

__

The bill is H.R. 1477.