Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Iran breaking nuclear arms pledge: UN

SUSPICIOUS The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a new report that three workshops in Iran were still making parts that could be used to make nuclear arms

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Nearly two months after pledging to suspend its nuclear program, Iran is continuing to make parts and materials that could be used to manufacture of nuclear arms, according to a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The report, distributed Tuesday to the agency's member nations, deepens the challenge of forcing Iran to give up a program that US President George W. Bush has charged is intended to turn the country into a nuclear power.

The Iranians insist they are seeking to enrich uranium to produce commercial nuclear power, but the atomic energy agency's report cites continuing evidence that Iran misled inspectors with many of its early claims, especially on questions about where it obtained critical components. Iranian officials have now told the agency that some of those parts were purchased abroad, after initially insisting that Iran had made them itself.

On Tuesday a senior administration official in Washington said the questions raised in the agency report ran so deep there was little chance Iran could seek to have the inquiry into its nuclear activities closed at the June meeting of the agency in Vienna, Austria, as Iranian officials previously demanded. The Iranians had told several European nations they planned to suspend their operations "on the way to cessation of producing nuclear materials."

"Not only is there no meaningful suspension," said the administration official, "but there are activities that can only be explained as moving forward to enrichment."

Even so, the report said the agency had found no unambiguous evidence of an Iranian program for making nuclear weapons.

"The jury is out on whether the program has been dedicated exclusively for peaceful purposes or if it has some military dimension," Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a NATO meeting on Tuesday.

The investigation is part of a continuing effort by the agency to understand the scope of the black-market network set up by Abdul Qadeer Khan, known in Pakistan as the father of its nuclear bomb. Khan's network also provided technology and parts to North Korea and Libya and is suspected of selling them to other nations.

The atomic energy agency's report, obtained from diplomatic officials, said three workshops in Iran were making centrifuge parts despite Tehran's claim to have suspended uranium enrichment and related activities on April 9. In addition, it says, Iran is preparing to make uranium hexafluoride, the material that is fed into centrifuges to produce enriched uranium.

As the centrifuges spin, they enrich uranium to a purity that is useful for nuclear reactors and, in higher concentrations, for nuclear arms. The work on centrifuge fuel, said the report, "is at variance with the agency's previous understanding as to the scope of Iran's decision regarding suspension."

The report also said the Iranians had secretly sought to obtain magnets to make at least 4,000 P-2 centrifuges, a second-generation Pakistani model.

Finally, the report said Iran's explanation for how its earlier P-1 centrifuges became contaminated with highly enriched uranium appeared to be false. The Iranians said the contamination had been on the equipment when it arrived from abroad.

The report says that explanation now appears less believable. Western diplomats on Tuesday said the probable source of the contamination would turn out to be either the nuclear black market or Iran's own enriching of uranium.

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