Iran Nuclear NewsU.N. Says Iran Blocked Investigation of Nuclear Program

U.N. Says Iran Blocked Investigation of Nuclear Program

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New York Times: The United Nations nuclear watchdog listed today several instances where Iran has blocked investigation
of its nuclear development program or failed to provide information sought by the agency. New York Times

By RICHARD BERNSTEIN

VIENNA – The United Nations nuclear watchdog listed today several instances where Iran has blocked investigation of its nuclear development program or failed to provide information sought by the agency.

In a statement to its 35-member board, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is based in Vienna, did not provide any new disclosures about Iran’s nuclear program, but indicated that it had not been able to get information to help it resolve some long unanswered questions, specifically on the source of Iran’s more advanced centrifuge equipment or the reasons for nuclear contamination discovered in earlier inspections.

In addition, the I.A.E.A. said, Iran has turned down requests for further visits to a military base that the United States has identified as a possible nuclear research site, and it has flatly refused to provide information on so-called dual use technology that the I.A.E.A. has determined could be useful for uranium enrichment or conversion.

The dry, often technical statement draws no conclusions as to whether Iran is in violation of its pledge to stop all enrichment activities, made during ongoing negotiations with Britain, France and Germany aimed at persuading Iran to permanently to give up any nuclear weapons ambitions.

But the agency’s report was virtually certain to be seized on by the United States, whose delegation was expected to speak to the I.A.E.A. board on Wednesday, as further evidence of what Washington characterizes as Iranian duplicity in concealing what the United States believes to be a nuclear weapons program.

“It’s another failure to disclose activities, which fits a disturbing pattern,” one Western diplomat said of the I.A.E.A. statement, foreshadowing what the American delegation is likely to argue. “It’s more evidence that the Iranians are unwilling to provide full disclosure.”

But other officials interpreted the I.A.E.A. statement more cautiously, saying that, while Iran has not answered all of the agency’s questions, nothing has been discovered in two years of near-constant on-site inspections to show that Iran is engaged in an active weapons program.

“The facts don’t support an innocent or guilty verdict at this point,” an agency official said.

The statement read today was one in an ongoing series of reports made to the I.A.E.A. since Iran agreed to allow inspections of its previously concealed nuclear program two years ago. Iran maintains that its nuclear development program is aimed at electrical power generation and not nuclear weapons, and the main purpose of the I.A.E.A. inspections is to determine whether that claim is true.

Iranian credibility has been harmed by several instances, described in earlier I.A.E.A. reports and statements, where it has made important disclosures of nuclear related activity only after being confronted by the I.A.E.A. with strong evidence of such activities.

The statement on Tuesday summarized a disclosure reported in the American news media over the weekend that as long ago as 1987, the now disgraced Pakistan nuclear weapons chief A.Q. Khan had offered Iran what the agency called “drawings, specifications, and calculations for a ‘complete plant,’ and materials for 2,000 centrifuge machines.”

The I.A.E.A. said it was now asking that “all documentation relevant to the offer be made available for the agency’s review.”

The statement today was a follow-up to a full report issued in November by the agency’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei. That report included a long list of Iranian failures to disclose activities whose disclosure is required by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory.

For example, the November report said that Iran had obtained what are known as P-2 centrifuges, an advanced centrifuge for uranium enrichment that can be used in both civilian and military applications of nuclear power. In November, the I.A.E.A. said it was continuing to investigate “all of the information available to it concerning the P-2 centrifuge issue,” but in its statement today referring to the P-2 centrifuges, the agency said it has obtained “no new information.”

In another potentially important area, Iran has essentially closed the door to further cooperation on the efforts it has made at one site, known as Lavisan, to acquire dual-use material and equipment that the I.A.E.A. has said could be used to produce weapons-grade nuclear materials.

The agency said that, in response to its requests for details on the dual use materials at the Lavisan site, Iran argued that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and additional agreements that Iran has signed did not obligate it to disclose further information, a position the I.A.E.A. clearly disputes.

In yet another area, Iran has also refused to allow I.A.E.A. inspectors to return to Parchin, a military base where the United States believes nuclear research may be taking place. The Iranians allowed a limited visit to Parchin by the I.A.E.A. early this year, and inspectors took environmental samples that are still being analyzed, but the inspectors were limited to one of four areas that the agency had identified as of potential interest.

Officials said that Iran did not have any legal obligation to submit to inspections at Parchin, but the I.A.E.A., with American encouragement, urged the Iranians to allow such visits as a confidence-building measure.

But in a note to the I.A.E.A. dated Feb. 27, the agency statement disclosed, Iran said, “The expectation of the Safeguards Department in visiting specified zones and points in Parchin Complex are fulfilled and thus there is no justification for any additional visit.”

Some officials here said the I.A.E.A. statement was aimed largely at putting pressure on Iran to cooperate more fully with the inspection program. In the past, they said, Iran has at first said no to inspection requests but then has agreed to them, and that the same might happen on such questions as the Parchin and Lavisan matters.

On Monday, in a report to the board, Mr. ElBaradei asked Iran for increased cooperation.

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