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UN says Iran produced small amount of plutonium
( 2003-11-11 09:08) (Agencies)

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Monday in a confidential report obtained by Reuters that Iran had acknowledged producing a small amount of plutonium, a material useable in a nuclear bomb.

The United States accuses Iran of having a secret atomic weapons program. Tehran denies this and says it was forced to hide many aspects of its nuclear program from the United Nations because of decades of international sanctions it says were illegal.

"Iran has admitted that it produced small amounts of low enriched uranium using both centrifuges and laser enrichment processes... and that it had failed to report a large number of conversion, fabrication and irradiation activities involving nuclear material, including the separation of a small amount of plutonium," the report said.

Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium to make it useable as nuclear fuel or in atomic weapons. It can be done in several ways, including with centrifuges that separate the fissile uranium atoms through high-speed spinning or with lasers.

In contrast to Tehran's previous denials, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran also "acknowledged that 'a limited number of tests using small amounts of (uranium hexafluoride) had been conducted in 1999 and 2002' at the Kalaye Electric Company."

The report said these tests involved 4.2 lb of missing uranium hexafluoride, the chemical form of uranium used in the enrichment process, which Iran had previously "attempted to conceal by attributing the loss due to leaking valves."

The IAEA also said Iran had admitted to establishing a laser uranium-enrichment plant at Lashkar Ab'ad in 2000 which it had kept secret from the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The IAEA said it had "no evidence" of a secret weapons program, but that "given Iran's past pattern of concealment, it will take some time for the agency to conclude that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

The report was submitted to the 35 member states on the IAEA Board of Governors ahead of a November 20 meeting on Iran.

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