AP: Iran, through the black market network, had accumulated
all the knowledge it needed by the late 1980s to set up technology that can be used to make atomic weapons, diplomats familiar with the work of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Saturday.
By GEORGE JAHN
VIENNA, Austria – Iran, through the black market network, had accumulated all the knowledge it needed by the late 1980s to set up technology that can be used to make atomic weapons, diplomats familiar with the work of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Saturday.
The diplomats, who are familiar with the work of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke to The Associated Press two days before the IAEA board meets on Iran and other potential world nuclear concerns.
An agency investigation during the past two years previously established that Iran ran a clandestine nuclear program for nearly two decades, including working on uranium enrichment which can be used to make weapons.
The diplomats, who requested anonymity, suggested that the new revelations were significant because they indicated Iran had full possession of enrichment know-how from the black market network run by Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan earlier than previously believed.
The revelations came as last-minute disputes forced Iran and Russia to postpone the signing of an agreement to supply Iran with fuel for its first nuclear reactor, a deal strongly opposed by the United States.
Under the agreement, Russia will provide Iran with fuel and take back the spent fuel, a safeguard meant to banish fears Iran would misuse it to build nuclear weapons. U.N. nuclear experts also would monitor the facility.
Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, attributed the sudden delay to differences over the delivery time of the first shipment of fuel and the launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Saeedi said the deal may be signed Sunday in Bushehr, the southern town where Iran’s first reactor was built, using Russian help.
Nuclear concerns about Iran focus on its enrichment program because it can be used to process uranium for two purposes as fuel for power generation or as the core of warheads. Iran insists its nuclear aims are peaceful, while the United States and its key allies say Tehran is interested in making weapons.
Britain, France and Germany are trying to secure an Iranian commitment to scrap enrichment plans in exchange for economic aid, technical support and backing for Tehran’s efforts to join mainstream international organizations. Iran has suspended enrichment-related activities during talks with the Europeans but insists the freeze will be brief.
Both sides have described the talks as difficult most recently, Hassan Rowhani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, accused the Europeans in a French newspaper interview published Friday of being “incapable of keeping their promises.”
President Bush has expressed support for the European efforts. Also, nonproliferation officials with the U.S. State Department have grudgingly accepted a decision by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei not to publish a written report on the investigation of Iran’s nuclear activities for the first time in two years of board meetings because of lack of major new findings.
Still, there was evidence ahead of Monday’s IAEA board meeting of an American effort to ratchet up pressure on Tehran should the European talks fail.
A confidential position paper being circulated by the Americans to the other board members and shared in part with the AP called for a new written report on Iran by the board’s June meeting. Furthermore, it urged that meeting to “take further action if needed” against Iran in effect a demand that Tehran be hauled before the U.N. Security Council if there is any indication it was defying the agency board on nuclear matters.
A separate U.S. document outlined the need for a “Special Committee” to deal with nations violating the Nonproliferation Treaty which Washington says Iran has done. That committee could “make recommendations to the board” to report suspect nations to the Security Council, said the document seen by the AP.
European diplomats representing IAEA board members said U.S. efforts were hurting the three-nation negotiations with Iran.