- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

VIENNA, Austria — Iran has produced nearly 7 tons of the gas used in uranium enrichment since last month, a U.N. report said yesterday.

In unusually strong language, the report also said questions remain about key aspects of 18 years of clandestine nuclear activity on Iran’s part despite more than two years of investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“The agency is not yet in a position to clarify some important outstanding issues after 21/2 years of intensive inspections and investigation,” according to the confidential document. “Iran’s full transparency is indispensable and overdue.”

The report, prepared by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, came on the eve of an informal deadline for Iran to cease conversion activities at a nuclear facility in central Iran.

It said Iran had produced about 15,000 pounds of uranium hexafluoride, the gaseous feed stock that is spun by centrifuge into enriched uranium. Depending on the level of enrichment, that substance can be used either as a source of power or as the core of nuclear weapons.

The document did not make a finding on whether Iran was pursuing such a weapon, and Tehran insists its intentions are only to generate nuclear power. But former IAEA nuclear inspector David Albright said that, if Tehran were to use the material for weapons purposes, it would be enough for one atomic bomb.

The United States says Iran is interested in enrichment as part of a secret weapons program.

Among the unanswered questions, according to the report, were gaps in the documented development of Iran’s centrifuge program used in uranium enrichment and in what was received, and when, from the black market network headed by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Overall, the report confirmed recent revelations that most of the traces of weapons-grade uranium were imported into Iran on equipment from Pakistan that it bought on the black market — even though it said that “it is still not possible at this time to establish a definite conclusion,” particularly about the origins of other traces enriched to less than weapons grade.

The key issue was uranium conversion — changing raw uranium into gas that then is spun by centrifuges into enriched uranium.

After Iran resumed conversion last month at Isfahan, key European nations set a deadline that would expire today for Tehran to reimpose its freeze of the process or face the threat of referral to the U.N. Security Council — a warning most recently repeated last week by French President Jacques Chirac.

Iran argues it has a right to enrichment for peaceful purposes and has given no indication it will cease conversion before the deadline.

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