Iran Nuclear NewsIAEA 'concerned' Iran working on nuclear weapon

IAEA ‘concerned’ Iran working on nuclear weapon

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ImageAFP: The UN atomic watchdog is concerned that its information about Iran's nuclear activities suggests Tehran may be working on a nuclear warhead, according to a restricted report obtained by AFP Thursday. By Simon Morgan

ImageVIENNA (AFP) — The UN atomic watchdog is concerned that its information about Iran's nuclear activities suggests Tehran may be working on a nuclear warhead, according to a restricted report obtained by AFP Thursday.

"The information available to the agency … raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile," the watchdog's chief Yukiya Amano wrote in his first report to its board of governors.

It was the first time the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had expressed such concern about Iran's "current" activities.

The report also confirmed that Tehran had begun enriching uranium at higher levels, theoretically bringing it closer to levels needed for making an atomic bomb.

"Iran provided the agency with mass spectrometry results which indicate that enrichment levels of up to 19.8 percent (uranium) were obtained," the report said.

The enrichment was carried out at a plant in Natanz between February 9 and 11.

Iran has so far enriched uranium to levels of no more than 5.0 percent at Natanz, in defiance of UN orders for it to cease and three rounds of UN sanctions.

But earlier this month, Iran announced it would begin enriching uranium to 20 percent, ostensibly to make the fuel for a research reactor that makes medical radioisotopes.

While Iran insists its intentions are peaceful, western powers suspect Tehran is enriching uranium to make atomic weapons as the material in high purity form can be used in the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

The report said while the Islamic republic officially informed the IAEA of its intentions, it started feeding nuclear material into the uranium-enriching centrifuges before IAEA inspectors arrived in the plant to oversee the process.

"On February 10, when the agency inspectors arrived at PFEP (Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant), they were informed that Iran had already begun to feed the UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) into one cascade the previous evening," Amano's report said.

The report also said Iran had moved most of its overall stockpile of low-enriched uranium — 1,950 kilogrammes from an estimated total of 2,065 kilogrammes — for processing to higher levels.

The new IAEA chief, who took office on December 1, complained that Iran was continuing to stall agency requests to clear up allegations of past nuclear weapons work.

Among the issues the agency had tried to discuss with Iran without success so far were the simultaneous firing of high precision detonators, a uranium conversion project and various procurement related activities.

"Since August 2008, Iran has declined to discuss the above issues … or provide any further information and access to locations and people to address these concerns," the report said.

Iran has simply dismissed such allegations as "baseless" and the intelligence on which they were based as "forged".

But the IAEA insisted that Iran "engage with the agency on these issues" and allow its inspectors to visit all relevant sites, have access to all relevant equipment and documentation, and interview relevant persons, "without further delay."

Only by doing so would the IAEA be able to make progress.

All in all, IAEA inspectors had verified that none of Iran's declared nuclear material had been diverted, the report said.

However, "Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

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