Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Iran fighting UN draft on its nuclear policies

REUTERS , VIENNA

Iranian officials are unhappy with a sharply worded draft resolution that France, Britain and Germany prepared for the UN nuclear agency and are lobbying to have it softened, diplomats said yesterday.

The draft was circulated to the 35 nations on the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) governing board earlier this week, and says the board "deplores" Iran's failure to fully cooperate with the UN probe of suspicions Tehran might have a covert nuclear weapons program.

"The Iranians aren't very happy with the draft resolution," said a diplomat from a board member state who attended a meeting with the Iranian delegation on Thursday. He said Iran wants the word "deplores" out of the resolution, which is expected to be formally submit-ted to the IAEA board next week.

The US says Iran's atomic program is a front to build an atomic bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to generating electricity.

Top Iranian officials in Tehran and Vienna have been publicly silent about the text drafted by the EU's three biggest states. The head of Iran's delegation to next week's IAEA board meeting repeatedly declined to comment.

Diplomats also said Iran wants to remove a section that calls on Iran to end operation of a uranium conversion facility and reverse its decision to begin construction of a heavy water research reactor that would produce weapons-useable plutonium.

A non-aligned diplomat who declined to be identified said that Iran will have a tough time convincing the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to soften the resolution, given that it is based almost verbatim on a report on Iran prepared by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

"We can't be seen to be contradicting (ElBaradei's) report," said the diplomat. European and NAM states make up the majority of the 35-member board.

Further undermining Iran's support on the board are revelations that Tehran's advanced P-2 centrifuge program may have been planned on a massive scale and not as a tiny "research and development" project as Iran insists, diplomats said.

A senior UN inspector told the IAEA board on Thursday that a private Iranian company had expressed interest in "tens of thousands" of magnets for P-2 centrifuges from a European black marketeer, diplomats on the board said.

The diplomats said "tens of thousands" meant the Iranian firm considered buying at least 20,000.

Since two magnets are required for a single centrifuge, which purifies uranium for use as fuel for power plants or weapons by spinning at supersonic speeds, this would have been enough for at least 10,000 P-2 centrifuges, diplomats said.

"This could produce a significant amount of weapons-grade uranium," said one diplomat, adding that it would be enough for at least several nuclear warheads a year.

"If it was a small-scale research program, why were they interested in thousands of centrifuges?" another diplomat said.

Iran called the unresolved P-2 question a "minor" issue.

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