IAEA doubts Iran got HEU from Pakistan
* Says Tehran changed story on nuke centrifuges
* US renews nuclear weapons charges against Iran
VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog said in a confidential report on Tuesday that Iran had acknowledged importing parts for centrifuges capable of making bomb-grade uranium which it previously said were made in Iran.
Washington accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear arms programme. Tehran denies this, saying its nuclear programme is for power generation only. “Iran has acknowledged that, contrary to...earlier statements, it had imported some magnets relevant to P2 centrifuges from Asian suppliers,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, obtained by Reuters, said.
One Western diplomat on the IAEA board said this was “a further example of how Iran persists in distortion and half truths”. However, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who authored the report, said earlier it would be premature to say now that it was clear Iran’s programme was not peaceful.
“The jury is out on whether the programme has been dedicated exclusively for peaceful purposes or if it has some military dimension,” ElBaradei told a meeting of NATO parliamentarians.
The United Nations has been investigating Iran since an exiled Iranian opposition group reported in August 2002 that Tehran was hiding a massive uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and other sites from UN inspectors. The report also said high enriched uranium (HEU), enriched to the point where it contains 36 percent uranium-235 — the level at which it can be used in a bomb — was found at a different site never previously named by the IAEA, Farayand. .
The IAEA had previously said it had found HEU at the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and the Kalaye Electric Co. Iran has said the traces of 36 percent HEU found at Farayand and Kalaye Electric Company came from Pakistan. But the IAEA report said the facts did not appear to support this.
“It is unlikely, based on the information currently available, that the agency will be able to conclude that the 36 percent...contamination was due to components originating from the state in question,” the report said. Several diplomats said the state in question was Pakistan. They also said the 36 percent HEU could have come from Russia. But another Wstern diplomat who follows IAEA issues said it could not be ruled out that it was domestically produced. Tehran has always denied producing HEU at home.
The report also said Iran had under-reported the amount of weapons-grade plutonium it had produced in laboratory scale experiments, though one diplomat close to the agency said the amounts in question were not significant.
Iran last year agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment activities, which can be used for making nuclear bomb material, and signed a protocol allowing intrusive inspections of its nuclear sites by the IAEA.
The report said the IAEA had been able to verify suspension at the key enrichment-related facilities. But a diplomat close to the IAEA said Tehran was still producing enrichment centrifuge parts at three private facilities — despite Irann’s promise to end all such manufacturing activity.
Another diplomat close to the IAEA said the unresolved questions about the extent of Iran’s centrifuge enrichment programme and the origins of traces of high and low enriched uranium were the areas of greatest concern for the IAEA in the coming months as the investigation continues. The United States on Tuesday renewed accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons after revelations that UN inspectors have discovered new signs the Islamic republic may be seeking to enrich bomb-grade uranium.
The State Department did not directly address the new information but said Washington’s view was “borne out by the facts” and said it looked forward to discussing the matter next when the governing board of the UN’s nuclear watchdog meets in Vienna to address the Iranian programme.
“I think what is clear, as we approach the next phase of discussion at the International Atomic Energy Agency, is that Iran has still not fulfilled the requirements of the board of governors, nor has it fulfilled its own commitments to provide full and complete information,” spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington.
Asked whether the United States held to its longstanding charges that Iran is trying to cloak nuclear weapons development with a civilian energy program, he replied: “I think that’s borne out by the facts, yes.” Boucher spoke shortly after it emerged that IAEA experts had found more contamination in Iran by highly enriched uranium that could be bomb-grade and that Tehran had provided “changing or contradictory information” on its work with sophisticated P-2 centrifuges which can enrich uranium to that level.
The United States says Iran is hiding a program to build the bomb and has called for the IAEA, which has been investigating the Iranian program since February 2003, to refer the Islamic Republic to the UN Security Council for possible international sanctions. agencies