Iran Nuclear NewsIran withholds data on atom bomb issue: ElBaradei

Iran withholds data on atom bomb issue: ElBaradei


ImageReuters: Iran appears to be holding back information needed to clarify intelligence allegations that it secretly studied how to design nuclear weapons, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday.

By Mark Heinrich and Karin Strohecker

ImageVIENNA (Reuters) – Iran appears to be holding back information needed to clarify intelligence allegations that it secretly studied how to design nuclear weapons, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, opening a meeting of its 35-nation governing board, reiterated that the intelligence, supplied by about 10 countries, was a "matter of serious concern".

Iran says the material is forged but has not backed up its denials with evidence

"Iran has not yet agreed to implement all the transparency measures required to clarify this cluster of allegations and questions," ElBaradei told the closed Vienna gathering.

"Iran has not provided the agency with all the access to documents and to individuals requested … nor provided the substantive explanations required to support its statements.

"The agency understands that Iran may have additional information, in particular on high explosives testing and missile-related activities, which should shed more light on the nature of the alleged activities," ElBaradei added.

"Such clarifications are critical to an assessment of the nature of Iran's past and present nuclear program."

The intelligence comes in part from 18 documents listed at the end of the IAEA's latest quarterly report on Iran issued on May 26, an extraordinary move reflecting the gravity with which the U.N. watchdog views the information.

The documentation points to links in Iran between uranium processing, explosives testing and attempts to modify a missile cone in a way that would be suitable for a nuclear warhead.

ElBaradei, however, said the investigation had also been hampered by the IAEA's inability to provide hard copies of the intelligence documentation to Iran for perusal. The reason, diplomats say, is U.S. concern about exposing its sources.

"The agency received much of the information … only in electronic form and was unfortunately not authorized to provide copies to Iran," the IAEA director said.

"Release of documents that are not sensitive from the proliferation perspective, including those purportedly showing interconnections between the three categories of alleged studies, would clearly help the agency in its investigations."

Iran has dismissed the information as fabricated or related solely to conventional military activity.

But ElBaradei said verifying whether or not Iran's nuclear program had illicit military dimensions depended on Tehran "demonstrating the necessary transparency and providing full disclosure" on the intelligence.

A senior Western diplomat in the meeting called ElBaradei's speech unusually tough and hard-edged, underlining growing IAEA exasperation with the Islamic Republic.

Iran has attributed the concerted IAEA inquiry into alleged nuclear bomb research to pressure by major Western powers led by Washington, and warned on Sunday it might have to limit cooperation with the U.N. watchdog as a result.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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