Reuters: Iran has admitted to experimenting with producing plutonium, which can be used for atomic bombs, much more recently than it originally told the U.N. nuclear watchdog, according to a draft U.N. speech. Reuters
By Louis Charbonneau and Francois Murphy
VIENNA – Iran has admitted to experimenting with producing plutonium, which can be used for atomic bombs, much more recently than it originally told the U.N. nuclear watchdog, according to a draft U.N. speech.
Iran had first told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that its last experiments with the reprocessing of plutonium took place in 1993 but revised that date to 1998, according to a draft speech deputy IAEA chief Pierre Goldschmidt is due to make to the agency’s board of governors on Thursday.
The speech, obtained by Reuters, said the IAEA had asked Iran to confirm that one bottle of a solution containing plutonium “had been processed in 1995 while the solution in the second one had been purified in 1998.”
“In a letter dated May 26 2005, Iran confirmed the agency’s understanding with regard to that chronology,” the speech said.
This revelation will likely add fuel to Washington’s belief that Iran’s nuclear energy program is a cover to develop the bomb. Iran denies the accusation, insisting its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.
Diplomats on the IAEA board said this was another breach of Iran’s obligation to provide a full and accurate declaration of all sensitive nuclear materials in the country as required by the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“This is nuclear material and, yet again, when Iran’s backed into a corner the story changes,” a Western diplomat said.
The IAEA has never said that these laboratory-scale experiments with plutonium were related to weapons development. But the United States, other countries and nuclear experts say that such work can have little civilian use.
Goldschmidt’s speech said Iran had not provided all documentation related to shipments of equipment used to enrichment uranium sold to Iran by black marketeers. Also, some of the documents Tehran did provide contradicted previous information it had given the IAEA, the speech said.
Access to these documents “is essential for verifying the completeness of Iran’s declarations concerning such (uranium enrichment) equipment,” the speech said.
It was unclear whether the draft speech would be revised before delivery.
IRAN: NO SURPRISES IN SPEECH
The head of Iran’s delegation, Sirus Naseri, had little to say about the report.
“It is an attempt to be informative,” he said. “I think it is very difficult to try to find any surprises in this.”
Regarding the requested shipment documentation he said, “We will make every effort to provide it to them.” Goldschmidt’s three-page speech, marked “highly confidential,” catalogd a number of other failures by Iran to hand over information that the agency had requested.
One example involves a 1987 meeting in Dubai between Iran and people linked to the disgraced father of Pakistan’s atom bomb program, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Diplomats familiar with the IAEA’s 2-year probe of Iran say this meeting is significant because it took place during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
“The agency has repeatedly … asked to have access and copies of the original documentation reflecting the 1987 offer” of uranium enrichment centrifuge technology, the speech said.
According to diplomats close to the IAEA, the agency has strong reason to think that there was more to the offer than a single-page summary. But Iran has told the IAEA that the “one-page document provided to the agency is the only existing one.”
Earlier this week, IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei praised Iran for providing access to sites in the country and suspending its uranium enrichment program, which can be used to make fuel for atomic power plants or weapons.
However, he urged Iran to allow IAEA experts to return to “areas of interest” at military site called Parchin, which they inspected once but have since been barred from visiting.
Parchin, the center of Iran’s munitions industry, is among the sites where the United States suspects Iranian scientists have conducted research related to nuclear bomb-making.