Iran Nuclear NewsIran stalls in probe of nuke smuggling - diplomats

Iran stalls in probe of nuke smuggling – diplomats

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Reuters: Tehran is not cooperating fully with a probe by the U.N. nuclear watchdog into Iranian officials’ meetings with smugglers who had links to Pakistani atom bomb-maker Abdul Qadeer Khan, diplomats said on Monday.
The diplomats said the meetings in 1987 and 1994 were key to help determine whether Iran’s programme was originally intended to produce electricity, as Tehran insists, or to make bombs, as Washington maintains. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

VIENNA – Tehran is not cooperating fully with a probe by the U.N. nuclear watchdog into Iranian officials’ meetings with smugglers who had links to Pakistani atom bomb-maker Abdul Qadeer Khan, diplomats said on Monday.

The diplomats said the meetings in 1987 and 1994 were key to help determine whether Iran’s programme was originally intended to produce electricity, as Tehran insists, or to make bombs, as Washington maintains.

Iran’s failure to cooperate fully with the United Nations on the issue worried the European Union’s “big three” powers, the diplomats said. Britain, France and Germany resume nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva on Tuesday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, several Western diplomats familiar with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) investigation said Iran appeared to be withholding information about the two meetings, both of which took place in Dubai.

“They are not cooperating on this issue,” said one diplomat. He said there was a lack of documentation and there were inconsistencies in the Iranian accounts of the meetings with people known to be part of Khan’s network that supplied Iran and Libya with sensitive atomic technology.

Sirus Naseri, one of Iran’s senior nuclear negotiators in talks with the EU aimed at resolving the standoff over Iran’s nuclear plans, declined to comment, as did the IAEA.

Iran first acknowledged the 1987 meeting earlier this year.

According to the IAEA’s deputy director general, Pierre Goldschmidt, Iran showed the IAEA a one-page offer for centrifuges that resulted from that meeting. Such machines are used to enrich uranium for use in atomic power plants or arms.

In a speech to the IAEA board of governors last month, Goldschmidt called on Tehran to produce “all documentation relevant to the offer” that came out of the 1987 meeting.

Iran had not done this, the diplomats said.

The IAEA believed civilians at the meetings in Dubai worked for a front company that might have been intended to mask their relationship with the Iran’s defence industry.

“They think it was a camouflage organisation. These were civilians but it was a dummy organisation,” a diplomat said.

IRAN-IRAQ WAR

The 1987 meeting took place at the time of the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988 after nine years of fighting.

One diplomat said the IAEA’s nuclear safeguards inspectors were convinced that meeting was military related.

But the diplomats said IAEA officials would never voice such suspicions in public without hard evidence — evidence the agency does not have.

With U.S. backing, France, Britain and Germany have offered Iran economic and political incentives if it permanently gives up its uranium enrichment programme as an “objective guarantee” that it will not develop nuclear weapons.

While the Europeans want this as an assurance that Iran will not have a future bomb programme, they want the IAEA to complete a full investigation of Tehran’s past atomic activities to establish confidence that its ambitions are peaceful.

“Establishing the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations to the agency is essential to building confidence,” a Vienna-based diplomat said.

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