IAEA investigating Pak-Iranian nuclear links
By Khalid Hassan
WASHINGTON: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is said to be investigating potential links between the atomic programmes of Iran and Pakistan after discovering that the secret Iranian uranium-enrichment programme used Urenco-supplied technology identical to Pakistani plans.
Urenco is a British, Dutch and German consortium and a world leader in centrifuge design and operation. The company denied supplying centrifuge technology or blueprints to Iran. Pakistan repeatedly has denied providing any nuclear assistance to Iran and criticised as “anti-Muslim” articles suggesting it had aided Iran. Tehran also has denied cooperating with Pakistan.
A Western diplomat in a telephone interview told the Los Angeles Times Thursday that the matter eventually would go to the UN. Diplomats said discovering the origins of the Iranian uranium enrichment process was one of the key areas under investigation by the IAEA as it attempted to reconstruct 18 years of hidden activities. “A diplomat said that the IAEA had not determined whether the centrifuge plans had come directly from Pakistan or were obtained or stolen from a Pakistani nuclear laboratory by the middleman.
According to the report, “Abdul Qadeer Khan, the primary developer of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, worked at the Urenco enrichment plant in the Dutch city of Almelo in the 1970s. After returning to Pakistan, he was accused of stealing centrifuge plans from the facility. Two former Iranian diplomats told the Los Angeles Times last summer that Khan made several trips to Iran, beginning in 1987, to help with Iran’s nuclear program. One of them, Ali Akbar Omid Mehr, said Khan was given a villa on the Caspian Sea in return for his assistance. On a trip to South Korea this month, President Pervez Musharraf said a reported visit by Khan to Iran was connected with attempts to purchase short-range missiles, not nuclear technology sales.”
The Istanbul-based report carried by the Los Angeles Times Friday said Tehran had acknowledged to the IAEA that its centrifuge enrichment programme was based on designs by a European firm, Urenco.
Diplomats said the designs were the same Urenco-based technology used by Pakistan to develop its nuclear bomb in the 1990s. The most recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear programme said Tehran started research in 1985 and got the centrifuge designs “from a foreign intermediary in 1987.” Iran has told the agency that they came from a middleman whose identity remains a mystery. The United States has accused Iran of using a civilian programme to conceal efforts to develop an atomic bomb. IAEA inspections in recent months have uncovered numerous instances in which Iran concealed nuclear activities that could have played a role in developing an atomic bomb.
Noting that Iran has maintained that its nuclear programme exists solely to generate electricity and further that Tehran agreed to provide the IAEA with a full disclosure of its programme’s history and accept tougher IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, the report said while condemning Iran Wednesday, the IAEA board stopped short of referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, as the Bush administration initially wanted.