AP: The chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency said evidence described by the nuclear watchdog Thursday increased concerns that Iran had tried to make nuclear weapons.
The Associated Press
By GEORGE JAHN
VIENNA, Austria (AP) — The chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency said evidence described by the nuclear watchdog Thursday increased concerns that Iran had tried to make nuclear weapons.
The documents detailed by IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen were provided to the agency by board member nations for its investigation into allegations that Iran disguised research and testing on a nuclear arms program as peaceful nuclear activities.
One document dated January-February 2004 is linked to high explosives testing of the kind that can be used to detonate a nuclear device. Others dated January and March 14 of that year are part of purported evidence that Iran worked on designs of a missile re-entry vehicle that is normally a part of a nuclear delivery system.
A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate made public late last year concluded that Tehran froze nuclear weapons work in 2003. Some other countries, however, believe such activities continued beyond that year. Any Iranian focus on nuclear weapons work in 2004 would at least indicate continued interest past the time frame outlined in the U.S. intelligence estimate.
"Today's briefing showed … strong reasons to suspect that Iran was working covertly and deceitfully at least until recently to build a bomb," Gregory L. Schulte, the chief U.S. delegate to the agency, told reporters.
He did not specify what he meant by "recently."
Rejecting the allegation, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Schulte's Iranian counterpart, again dismissed the evidence as "baseless and fabricated documents and papers."
"The CIA has done a lousy job," he said.
An IAEA report Monday said Iran may be withholding information needed to establish whether it tried to make nuclear arms.
The IAEA report also said Iran remains defiant of the council's demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and has expanded its operational centrifuges — machines that churn out enriched uranium — by about 500 since the last IAEA report, in February.
"Iran's leaders claim that Iran's nuclear file is closed … Today's briefing showed that claim to be false," Schulte said. "Iran has refused to explain or even acknowledge past work on weaponization … This is particularly troubling when combined with determined efforts to master the technology to enrich uranium."
Iran responded by saying the latest report shows that it "has been robustly cooperating with the agency."
In a statement from Iran's U.N. Mission late Wednesday, the mideast nation insisted that the IAEA must now deal with its nuclear program in a "routine manner" because it resolved six outstanding issues and the U.N. nuclear watchdog says the program is peaceful.
It made no mention of the report's statement that Iran may be withholding information, instead rejecting again allegations of an undeclared weapons program as "baseless," "totally false," and aimed at undermining the country's cooperation with the IAEA.
Iran's U.N. Mission said the country's answers to all six outstanding questions about activities that could be linked to a nuclear weapons program "have undoubtedly eliminated the most basic pretexts and allegations" that led to Security Council sanctions.
"Therefore … Iran's peaceful nuclear program should be dealt with solely by the agency as a regular item on its agenda" and in a "routine manner," the mission's statement said.