Iran promises answers on atomic work: diplomats
Updated: 2006-02-26 16:17
U.N. nuclear experts arrived in Iran on Saturday after Tehran promised
answers to outstanding questions about work the U.N. fears could be linked to
atomic "weaponization," Western diplomats said.
|Iran's Economy Minister Davoud Danesh-Jaffari (R) and the Head of
Russia's Atomic Energy Agency Sergei Kiriyenko react during an official
meeting in Tehran February 25, 2006.
Separately, two diplomats said Tehran had begun operating 10 uranium
enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz plant in central Iran, meaning the Islamic
Republic has made good on its threats to resume the small-scale production of
On Thursday, a senior diplomat in Vienna told Reuters the Iranians had
promised the deputy director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), Olli Heinonen, information about a shadowy
uranium-processing project that Western intelligence has linked to possible atom
In addition to this uranium project -- called the "Green Salt Project" -- an
EU diplomat in Vienna briefed on the IAEA's probe of Iran's nuclear program said
Tehran had also promised information related to possible work on nuclear
"This trip is related to the entire issue of weaponization, one of the major
unresolved issues," said a European Union diplomat who follows Iran. "The
Iranians have promised answers but it's unclear whether the answers will be
sufficient to clear up all the IAEA's questions about Iranian weaponization
The term weaponization includes making, testing and fitting a nuclear warhead
to a delivery system, such as a missile.
Two Vienna diplomats said they doubted the Iranians were ready to finally
come clean after decades of covering up work that the United States, European
Union and their allies believe has been part of a covert plan to develop atomic
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons and says it is only interested in the
peaceful generation of electricity.
DELAY OF SECURITY COUNCIL ACTION
One EU diplomat said the Iranians were afraid the IAEA report would include
complaints that Tehran continues to stonewall U.N. inspectors in their attempt
to verify whether or not Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.
"They are afraid (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei's report for the March 6
board meeting will not have very good things to say regarding their refusal to
answer questions about weaponization," the diplomat said. "They want to soften
He predicted Iran would give the IAEA enough information to require lengthy
examination. This could delay any action by the U.N. Security Council, which
will receive a copy of ElBaradei's report once it is discussed by the IAEA board
Corey Hinderstein of the Institute for Science and International Security
(ISIS), a U.S. think-tank, said the IAEA's unanswered weaponization questions
included Iran's high explosives tests, its design information related to the
core of a nuclear weapon and the military's role in its nuclear work.
There were also questions related to U.S. intelligence recovered from a
stolen laptop computer that suggests Iranian missile experts have been trying to
develop a missile re-entry vehicle capable of carrying a relatively small
The EU diplomat said Iran's decision to press ahead with the enrichment of
uranium, a process of purifying it for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or
weapons, was especially disturbing given the open questions about possible
He said Iran's decision to feed uranium gas into 10 centrifuges was not in
itself "a big deal." A thousand centrifuges of the type Iran has at Natanz would
need several years to produce enough highly-enriched fuel for a single bomb.
"Weaponization combined with enrichment is a big deal," he said.
The 10 centrifuges had been sealed by the IAEA until Iran decided to resume
enrichment earlier this year, prompting France, Britain and Germany to end 2-1/2
years of talks aimed at resolving the stand-off with Iran.
But while Western nations threatened to press ahead with sanctions, Iran is
to grant gas contracts to European firms Total, Shell and Repsol, an Iranian
state oil firm said.
Iran is the convinced the West will balk at setting sanctions on OPEC's
number two exporter while oil prices remain high.