- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

VIENNA, Austria — The U.N. atomic agency has identified Russia, China and Pakistan as among the probable suppliers of equipment that Iran used to conduct suspected nuclear programs with weapons potential, diplomats said yesterday.

The diplomats spoke to the Associated Press as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) weighed how harshly to censure Tehran for two decades of covert nuclear activities, which Iran says were aimed at peaceful purposes.

The IAEA’s 35-nation board is debating the wording of a resolution that would satisfy both U.S. calls for strong condemnation of Iran’s past cover-ups and European desires to keep Iran cooperating by focusing on its recent openness.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, said agency delegates were discussing a “quite strong” resolution. The talks, which broke off yesterday after less than two hours, are to continue today.

Although Iran has acknowledged nearly two decades of concealment, it recently has begun cooperating with the agency in response to international pressure. To that end, it has suspended uranium enrichment — an activity that had raised U.S. suspicions of a nuclear-weapons agenda.

Iran says it enriched uranium only to produce power. Although admitting that some of its enrichment equipment had traces of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium, it insists those traces inadvertently were imported on material it purchased abroad.

However, Tehran says it cannot identify the countries of origin because it bought the centrifuges and laser-enrichment equipment through third parties.

The Vienna-based IAEA must know where the equipment came from if it is to ascertain whether Iran is telling the truth about the source of trace uranium.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to say how the agency established the probable origin of the equipment.

Pakistan, suspected from the start, repeatedly has denied any involvement.

Russia likewise denied that it was a willing participant in providing enrichment technology to Iran for the purpose of a nuclear-weapons program.

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