AFP: The UN atomic agency’s investigation of Iran will continue as Tehran has failed to provide sufficient information on crucial questions about uranium-enriching centrifuges and nuclear smuggling, the agency’s chief said. Mohamed ElBaradei, who was named Monday to a third-four year term as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, outlined the world’s … AFP
VIENNA – The UN atomic agency’s investigation of Iran will continue as Tehran has failed to provide sufficient information on crucial questions about uranium-enriching centrifuges and nuclear smuggling, the agency’s chief said.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who was named Monday to a third-four year term as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, outlined the world’s major proliferation hotspots in an address to a meeting in Vienna of the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors.
The 62-year-old Egyptian also said that Iran had not given access requested by the IAEA to the Lavizan and Parchin military sites, where diplomats say weaponization work is suspected.
Diplomats told AFP the agency had also requested but been denied access so far to interview key officials such as Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a brigadier general who has worked at Lavizan.
ElBaradei reiterated his agency’s concerns about “the importance and urgency to finding a solution” in North Korea, which kicked IAEA inspectors out in 2002 and now claims to have made atom bombs.
The IAEA chief said his agency was still however “ready to work” with North Korea “to ensure that all nuclear activities (there) are exclusively for peaceful purposes as well as addressing the security needs of” Pyongyang.
He also said a protocol designed to reduce inspections in nations with small nuclear programs has turned into “a weakness in the safeguards system” of controls verified by the IAEA.
Saudi Arabia has turned down a European Union request to allow full international nuclear inspections, saying it will only agree to special investigations if other countries exempted from them do the same, EU diplomats said in Vienna.
Saudi Arabia is insisting on its right to sign at this week’s board meeting the Small Quantities Protocol (SPQ), which has been in effect since 1971 and is signed by 86 nations.
Saudi Arabia, a key state in the tense Middle East, is not believed to be a direct nuclear proliferation threat, but diplomats are seeking to calm fears amid a major test of wills with nearby Iran, which US officials suspect of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
On Iran, ElBaradei said information is lacking over how close the Islamic Republic is to being able to use sophisticated centrifuges for enriching uranium as well as its links to international nuclear smuggling.
“Iran has provided some additional documentation and information, which are not yet sufficient to answer several remaining questions,” ElBaradei said.
His comments came as Iran was seeking to have the IAEA’s more than two-year-old investigation of its nuclear program closed, especially since it is negotiating with the European Union to guarantee it is not secretly developing atomic weapons and to win trade, security and technology benefits.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and designed to generate electricity but the United States says this civilian effort hides a covert atomic weapons program.
ElBaradei said the IAEA “is making progress on one of the two key remaining issues, namely the origin of the low and high enriched uranium contamination on equipment at various locations in Iran.”
ElBaradei, who was elected after the United States dropped its opposition to his candidacy, formally declared Tuesday his support of a US proposal “to establish a committee to consider ways and means to strengthen the safeguards system.”
ElBaradei said the IAEA had set up a similar committee in 1996 to fix weaknesses in monitoring Iraq’s nuclear program.
Now “revelations such as the discovery of additional undeclared nuclear programs aided by covert nuclear supply networks and the risk associated with nuclear terrorism have confronted the agency’s verification system and the non-proliferation regime in general with unprecedented challenges,” he said.