- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2010

VIENNA, Austria | The U.N. nuclear agency on Thursday said it was worried Iran may currently be working on making a nuclear warhead, suggesting for the first time that Tehran had either resumed such work or never stopped at the time U.S. intelligence thought it did.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency appeared to put the U.N. nuclear monitor on the side of Germany, France, Britain and Israel. These nations and other U.S. allies have disputed the conclusions of a U.S. intelligence assessment published three years ago that said Tehran appeared to have suspended such work in 2003.

The U.S. assessment itself may be revised and is being looked at again by American intelligence agencies. While U.S. officials continue to say the 2007 conclusion was valid at the time, they have not ruled out the possibility that Tehran resumed such work sometime after that.

Iran denies any interest in developing nuclear arms. But the confidential report, made available to the Associated Press, said Iran’s resistance to agency attempts to probe for signs of a nuclear cover-up “give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that the report “verified the peaceful, nonmilitary nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.”

But in Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the findings were consistent with what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been saying “on our ongoing concerns about Iran’s activities.”

The language of the report - the first written by Yukiya Amano, who became IAEA head in December - appeared to be more directly critical of Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA than most of those compiled by his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.

It strongly suggested that intelligence supplied by the U.S., Israel and other IAEA member states on Iran’s attempts to use the cover of a civilian nuclear program to move toward a weapons program was compelling.

“The information available to the agency … is broadly consistent and credible in terms of the technical detail, the time frame in which the activities were conducted and the people and organizations involved,” says the report, prepared for next month’s IAEA board meeting.

“Altogether, this 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,” says the report, which was also sent to the U.N. Security Council.

Iran is weathering three sets of Security Council sanctions meant to punish its refusal to freeze its uranium-enrichment program. Its recent rejection of a plan meant to strip it of most of its enriched stockpile plus its belated acknowledgment that it had been secretly building a new enrichment facility has increased sentiment for a fourth set.

The U.S., Britain and France support such a measure, with Russia undecided and fellow permanent Security Council member China - which depends on Iran for much of its energy needs - opposed.

The report also confirmed Iranian claims of being able to enrich uranium to near 20 percent.

While enriching Iran’s present stockpile of low enriched uranium to 20 percent would take about one year, using up to 2,000 centrifuges at Tehran’s underground Natanz facility, any next step - moving from 20 percent to 90 percent - would take only half a year and from 500 to 1,000 centrifuges.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide