Reuters: The U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a confidential report on Friday Iran had given it a document which diplomats said included partial instructions for making the core of a nuclear bomb. By Mark Heinrich and Francois Murphy
VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a confidential report on Friday Iran had given it a document which diplomats said included partial instructions for making the core of a nuclear bomb.
The U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the disclosure raised concerns about weaponization but other diplomats and a U.S. nuclear expert were more cautious, saying more investigation was needed into the issue.
“Iran’s full transparency is indispensable and overdue,” said IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei in a confidential report to the agency’s board of governors.
The report, seen by Reuters, said that among other documents it had found one “on the casting and machining of enriched, natural and depleted uranium into hemispherical forms”.
One European diplomat described it as a “cookbook” for the enriched uranium core of a nuclear weapon.
But a U.S. nuclear expert, David Albright of the Institute for Science and International security, said it was far from a step-by-step guide to producing a bomb core.
“Iran has gone from saying it got nothing on this subject to (saying it got) a little bit,” he said. “But the question remains: did Iran get more than it admitted to?”
The Iranians told the IAEA the document had come to them unsolicited from people linked to the nuclear black market set up by disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Iran says it wants to use nuclear power only to generate electricity and has the legal right to do so.
While Iran had been “more forthcoming” in providing access to documents and information in some areas, questions on the peaceful nature of its nuclear plans remained, the report said.
The IAEA board meets on Thursday to decide whether to send Iran to the Security Council for failing to allay suspicions it is hiding a nuclear arms program behind a civilian one.
“This (document) opens new concerns about weaponization that Iran has failed to address,” the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, said in a statement.
Britain said the IAEA should investigate the questions raised in its latest report. “They only serve to reinforce existing concerns about Iran’s true intentions about its nuclear program,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
The IAEA report asked Iran to provide information on dual-use equipment and allow visits to sites such as those at Lavizan. Washington says one site was used for sensitive nuclear work but was bulldozed before IAEA inspectors could visit it.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said earlier the IAEA should justify its request for access to Lavizan.
“We cannot accept this demand just because they wish it, especially since Lavizan-Shian is a military complex,” the semi-official ISNA students’ news agency quoted him as saying.
URANIUM PROCESSING RESUMES
Larijani also confirmed Iran had resumed uranium conversion at its Isfahan plant. “We had informed the U.N. watchdog that Iran wanted to process a new batch of uranium and we have started it,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Iran, which hid uranium enrichment activities from the IAEA for 18 years until 2003, told the Vienna-based body last month it planned to process a new batch of uranium.
Larijani did not say when processing had resumed at Isfahan, but diplomats in Vienna reported it on Wednesday.
France said this Iranian move did not help foster confidence. “We consider that this is a decision which does not go in the right direction,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Paris.
France, Britain and Germany, who led now-stalled European Union negotiations with Iran, met U.S., Chinese and Russian officials in London on Friday to discuss whether to haul Iran before the Security Council for possible sanctions.
Larijani, who has asked the so-called EU3 to resume talks, reiterated that Iran would never drop its nuclear plans, but told the semi-official Mehr news agency he believed the IAEA meeting would be “positive and favorable for Iran”.
Tehran suspended nuclear activities at Isfahan under a November 2004 deal with the EU3, but resumed work at the plant in August, prompting the trio to suspend negotiations.
The EU and Washington want Iran referred to the Security Council. Russia and China, which have veto power on the body, have resisted. Moscow says referral would politicize the issue.
One EU3 official said it was unlikely a strong majority of countries on the 35-nation IAEA board would back a referral.
A U.S. State Department spokesman criticized Iran for the new conversion work but said Washington had not decided whether to push for a referral at the next board meeting.
Participants in the London meeting, who included the U.S. State Department’s Nicholas Burns, were also expected to discuss a Russian proposal, tentatively approved by the EU trio and the United States, aimed at breaking the deadlock with Iran.
The plan would let Iran continue some nuclear fuel production, but would shift uranium enrichment to Russia.
Enrichment, the step that follows conversion, purifies uranium to the level needed to fuel power plants or, if enriched further, to the level needed to build a nuclear weapon.
U.S. President George W. Bush has backed the initiative and some diplomats say ElBaradei could go to Iran to pursue it.
But it is unclear whether Iran, in a period of political uncertainty since hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August, would accept the plan. So far, Iran has insisted on enriching uranium on its own territory.
In Iran, state radio said about 7,000 hardline students had formed a human chain around the Natanz uranium enrichment facility on Friday to show support for the nuclear program.
(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in London, Parisa Hafezi in Tehran, Francois Murphy in Vienna and Lou Charbonneau in Berlin)