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Diplomat: IAEA tours Egyptian laboratory
Updated: 2005-01-22 08:55

U.N. nuclear inspectors toured an Egyptian laboratory during a review of the country's fuel programs prompted by irregularities in Egypt's reporting of its nuclear activities, a Western diplomat said Friday.

The diplomat said on the condition of anonymity that the tour by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors was part of the agency's follow-up to revelations that Egypt had dabbled in uranium enrichment and had contemplated processing plutonium.

"It's what the agency does once there (are) grounds to look at past activities," said the Western diplomat, who was familiar with the round of inspections in Egypt.

Inspectors would be going back on regular tours in the coming weeks, he said.

Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said the government was working with the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA on the "transparency" of its energy programs.

He added that Egypt "concluded a comprehensive safeguard agreement with IAEA, which states full cooperation between the agency and (Egypt)."

The Associated Press first reported that IAEA inspectors found suspicious traces of plutonium particles in Egypt late last year.

Earlier this month, diplomats told the AP that Egypt also was under IAEA investigation for allegedly producing several pounds of uranium metal and uranium tetrafluoride — a precursor to uranium hexafluoride gas.

Uranium metal can be processed into plutonium, while uranium hexafluoride can be enriched into weapons-grade uranium — both for use in the core of nuclear warheads.

Egypt has denied in the past it was trying to develop a nuclear weapons program. It has been known that Egypt had what appeared to be a nuclear research facility, but no public information has ever emerged that the research had developed very far.

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