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UN reveals 'credible evidence' of Iranian nuclear weapons programme

The UN’s nuclear agency says it is “increasingly concerned” that Iran is secretly building an offensive nuclear programme.

Yukiya Amano of the IAEA only rarely uses such strong words - indicating a genuine fear about Iran's nuclear capability.
Yukiya Amano of the IAEA only rarely uses such strong words - indicating a genuine fear about Iran's nuclear capability.
Image: Ronald Zak/AP

THE UN’S NUCLEAR AGENCY says it is “increasingly concerned” about intelligence suggesting that Iran is secretly working on developing a nuclear payload for a missile, and other components of a nuclear weapons programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said “many member states” were providing evidence that Iran – a member state of the IAEA – was covertly continuing a weapons programme, describing the information it is receiving as credible, “extensive and comprehensive”.

The restricted 9-page report was made available to the Associated Press, shortly after being shared internally with the 35 IAEA member nations and the UN Security Council yesterday.

It also said Tehran had fulfilled a pledged made earlier this year and started installing equipment to enrich uranium at a new location — an underground bunker that is better protected from an air attack than its present enrichment facilities.

Enrichment can produce both nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material, and Tehran  - which says it is using the technology only to produce fuel – is already under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to stop its enrichment process.

Iran denies secretly experimenting with a weapons programme and has blocked a four-year attempt by the IAEA to follow up on intelligence that it secretly designed blueprints linked to a nuclear payload on a missile, experimented with exploding a nuclear charge, and conducted work on other components of a weapons programme.

‘Increasingly concerned’

In 2007 the United States’ intelligence community said that while Iran had worked on a weapons programme, such activities appeared to have ceased in 2003. But diplomats say a later intelligence summary avoided such specifics, and recent IAEA reports on the topic have expressed growing unease that such activities may be continuing.

The phrase “increasingly concerned” has not appeared in previous reports discussing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons work and reflects the frustration felt by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano over the lack of progress in his investigations.

His report said that choice of language is due to the “possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities” linked to weapons work.

In particular, the leaked report said, the agency continues to receive new information about “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Acquired from “many” member states, the information possessed by the IAEA is “extensive and comprehensive [...and] broadly consistent and credible.”

The report praised Iran for its decision earlier this month allowing IAEA deputy director-general Herman Nackaerts to tour a facility where it is developing more efficient centrifuges, saying Iran “provided extensive information” on its development of such machines.

However, it was generally critical of Iran’s record of secrecy and lack of cooperation, noting that without increased openness on Tehran’s part, the IAEA is unable to “conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Read: North Korea ready to resume anti-nuclear talks ‘without preconditions’ >

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Associated Press

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