Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Report may trigger UN sanctions

BURDEN OF PROOF The atomic watchdog confirmed Iran has pushed ahead with nuclear fuel work by starting uranium conversion and enrichment in its Isfahan facility

AFP , VIENNA

Iran has continued with nuclear fuel work and critical questions remained about its program, the UN atomic agency said Friday in a report that could trigger UN Security Council sanctions over fears Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.

Since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "is not yet in a position to clarify some important outstanding issues after two and a half years of intensive inspections and investigation, Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue," the report said according to a copy of the confidential document obtained by reporters.

The report confirmed that Iran has pushed ahead with nuclear fuel work which the IAEA had called on it on Aug. 11 to halt, in order to save talks with the EU on guaranteeing Tehran's atomic program is peaceful. The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors had also asked agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report by Sept. 3 on Iranian compliance, setting an effective deadline for Iran to halt the fuel work. Iran claims its program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity but the US says Tehran is using this to hide covert nuclear weapons work.

The IAEA said that as of last Tuesday "approximately 4,000kg in the form of UOC [uranium yellowcake ore] had been fed" in the starting point of uranium conversion, at a facility in Isfahan.

In addition, Iran had used previously processed ore to produce some 6.2 tonnes of uranium hexafluoride gas, the end product of conversion that is the feedstock for making enriched uranium, or "more than enough to make one nuclear bomb," former IAEA weapons inspector David Albright said.

But Iran has not embarked on uranium enrichment, which takes the gas made from conversion and spins it through cascades of centrifuges to make the enriched uranium that can be fuel for civilian power reactors but also the explosive core of atom bombs, the report said.

Iran's resumption in early August of uranium conversion, which it had broken off last November to start talks with the EU, scuttled the negotiations and could lead to Iran being referred to the Security Council when the IAEA board meets on Sept. 19 in Vienna.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Thursday that the EU was "ready to go to the Security Council" for possible sanctions if Iran failed to heed the IAEA call to stop nuclear fuel work.

"The report notes that many troubling issues remain unresolved [and] confirms our concern that Iran is proceeding with a nuclear weapons program despite its international commitments," a Western diplomat said.

"Unless Iran stops its conversion, cooperates with the IAEA and returns to the negotiating table, the board should report this matter to the UN Security Council," the diplomat, who asked not to be named, said.

In Tehran, top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said the report contained criticism of Iran that was politically motivated, but nevertheless pledged his country would continue to cooperate with the IAEA.

Larijani said the criticism was "neither legal nor technical" -- repeating Iran's argument that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it has the "right" to carry out fuel cycle work for peaceful purposes.

Albright said the report gave the US and Europe ammunition to take Iran to the Security Council since "it again shows that Iran is not willing to cooperate to clear up what are violations of the" NPT.

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