Wed, May 28, 2008 - Page 6 News List

IAEA says Iran hiding alleged warhead plans

AFP , VIENNA

The UN atomic watchdog has expressed serious concern that Iran is still hiding information about alleged studies into making nuclear warheads and defying UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report released late on Monday that Iran must provide “substantive” information if it is to convince the international community that its nuclear drive is peaceful.

The alleged studies suggest Iran may have been trying to develop a nuclear warhead, convert uranium and test high explosives and a missile re-entry vehicle, the report said.

The report, to be discussed by the IAEA’s board of governors next week, said intelligence from a number of sources suggest Iran has conducted the studies. Iran has repeatedly dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and the intelligence as “forged.”

The IAEA demanded that Iran, which already faces UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, disprove the allegations.

“Substantive explanations are required from Iran to support its statements on the alleged studies and on other information with a possible military dimension,” the report said. “The alleged studies ... remain a matter of serious concern. Clarification of these is critical to an assessment of the nature of Iran’s past and present nuclear program.”

The IAEA “is continuing to assess the information and explanations provided by Iran. However, at this stage, Iran has not provided the agency with all the information, access to documents and access to individuals necessary to support Iran’s statements,” it said.

The IAEA “is of the view that Iran may have additional information, in particular on high explosives testing and missile-related activities, which could shed more light on the nature of these alleged studies and which Iran should share with agency.”

The watchdog said Iran is still refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, the process that can be used to make fissile material for an atomic bomb, despite three rounds of UN sanctions.

In all, Iran was operating about 3,500 uranium-enriching centrifuges at its main nuclear site in Natanz, the report said. Tehran has told the IAEA it hopes to have some 6,000 centrifuges running within months, a target that agency experts say is achievable, a senior official close to the Vienna-based watchdog said.

Iran’s ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said his country had answered all outstanding questions.

“We have given 200 pages of explanations” with regard to the so-called weaponization allegations, Soltanieh said. “We have dealt with this in depth.”

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