Iran cleared by UN of atomic ambition
( 2003-11-11 17:34) (Agencies)
A confidential U.N. nuclear agency report criticized Iran for a "pattern of concealment" about its nuclear program but said no evidence has been found to back U.S. claims it tried to make atomic bombs, according to diplomats.
The report by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency also found that Iran had produced small amounts of enriched uranium and plutonium, the Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, Iran announced in Moscow that it has suspended its enrichment of uranium and agreed to additional U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities.
The 29-page report, prepared by IAEA chief Director General Mohamed ElBaradei for a Nov. 20 meeting of the agency's board of governors, faults Iran for not telling the truth in the past about its nuclear programs, diplomats told The Associated Press.
The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and has pressed for the IAEA to declare Tehran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty ¡ª a move that would lead to U.N. Security Council involvement and possible sanctions.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP that the IAEA report credited Iran for a change of heart since September, when the agency demanded it explain contradictions and ambiguities in its nuclear activities.
"To date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities ... were related to a nuclear weapons program," said one of the diplomats, reading from the report. "However, given Iran's previous pattern of concealment, it will take some time before the agency is able to conclude that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."
U.S. officials will likely seize on a passage in the report saying that Tehran's recent disclosures "clearly show that in the past, Iran had concealed many aspects of its nuclear activities, which resulted in breaches of its obligations of the safeguard agreement."
The safeguards, which are meant to ensure all nuclear activities are peaceful, are a key part of the nonproliferation treaty.
In its Tuesday editions, the Washington Post said the report found that Iran manufactured small amounts of enriched uranium and plutonium as part of a covert nuclear program.
"Iran has now acknowledged that it has been developing, for 18 years, a uranium centrifuge program, and, for 12 years, a laser enrichment program," the Post said, quoting the report.
Under international pressure, Iran recently gave the agency what it said was a complete declaration of its nuclear activities just days ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline. On Monday, it also handed over two letters pledging to sign an additional agreement throwing open its program to inspection on demand by agency experts and announcing it had suspended uranium enrichment.
The concessions were announced in Moscow by Hasan Rowhani, the head of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council.
"Atomic weapons are not important to our defense doctrine," Rowhani said before meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government helped build Tehran's nuclear program.
Washington has urged Moscow to freeze its $800 million deal to help build Iran's first nuclear reactor, saying the facility in Bushehr on the shore of the Persian Gulf could help Iran develop weapons. The Kremlin has said it shares some of the U.S. concerns and has prodded Tehran to accept tighter IAEA controls.
Tehran promised weeks ago to suspend its enrichment activities, a key concern.
Iran has acknowledged that it enriched uranium covertly at a sophisticated facility at Natanz, about 300 miles south of Tehran. But it maintains enrichment was only to non-weapons levels, as part of nuclear programs meant to generate electricity.
While acknowledging IAEA finds of traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium on its enrichment centrifuges, it says the "contamination" originated outside Iran and was inadvertently imported with the equipment bought abroad.
U.S. intelligence reports focus on the Natanz enrichment programs in arguing that Iran has been pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Diplomats said the United States and its allies would seize on any ambiguity in ElBaradei's report concerning enrichment and other suspicious activities in making a case against Iran. They said the ElBaradei report did not make a judgment on the source of the highly enriched uranium, saying more investigation was needed.
The report also credited Iran with "active cooperation and openness," after the last board meeting demanded it unveil previous secrets and cooperate with agency inspectors, the diplomats said.
Before that, however, Iran "failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations" on honoring its safeguards agreements, the diplomats said, citing the report. "Iran's policy of concealment continued until last month, with cooperation being limited and reactive and information being slow in coming."
By making his announcement in Moscow, Rowhani bolstered the prestige of the Kremlin, which had taken a position between Washington and Tehran in the dispute.
Putin said "we are pleased to note that Iran has itself resolved to limit itself" on uranium enrichment, and he suggested it cleared the way for further Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation.
Rowhani added that Iran already had a project in mind. "In the nearest future, we will carry out discussions with Russia about building a second reactor at the Bushehr power plant," he said.
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