Saturday, November 12, 2005

First results from Iran site show no nuclear activity: diplomats

Yahoo News:

Fri Nov 11, 1:35 PM ET

VIENNA (AFP) - Initial results from a UN inspection of the Parchin military site in Iran have shown no signs of nuclear activity, diplomats told AFP, although final results are not yet in.

If confirmed, the results would strengthen Tehran's case that there is no suspicious activity at Parchin against charges from Washington that Iran it is secretly developing nuclear weapons at the explosives testing center.

"The very first preliminary results have not found anything so far," a diplomat close to the Vienna-based UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said, stressing that these were still early indications.

A second diplomat said that the IAEA was waiting for more analysis from environmental swipes taken November 1 at Parchin, 30 kilometres (20 miles) southeast of Tehran.

Visits to sites like Parchin are beyond nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards requirements, which are limited to inspecting sites where there is sure to be nuclear material.

It is possible there may be no nuclear material present at Parchin if the Iranians did "dry testing" bomb simulations with non-radioactive metals.

In any case, a diplomat said, "we don't expect those samples to show any undeclared nuclear activities, after all the time Iran was given to sanitize those sites."

IAEA inspectors had first visited Parchin in January but saw only five out of what are a much larger number of buildings. The Iranian government had up until November refused a follow-up visit.

Final results are not expected until after a meeting November 24-25 in Vienna of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors, which in September found Iran in non-compliance with the NPT.

This opened the door to bring Iran before the UN Security Council, which could impose penalties such as trade sanctions to get Tehran to suspend all nuclear fuel work and cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors.

Diplomats say that Tehran appears to be showing more cooperation with IAEA investigators in order to avoid referral to the Security Council.

A diplomat close to the IAEA said the agency may decide that it wants to hold off on deciding on referral since new information is still coming in that will have to be assessed before such a move can be taken.

In addition, there appears to be movement on the diplomatic front.

Iranian nuclear chief Ali Larijani said Friday in Tehran that Iran wants to conduct sensitive nuclear work on its territory but would be open to having the uranium enriched abroad.

Washington denied backing a proposal to resolve the nuclear row by letting enrichment be done in Russia.

The swipes at Parchin are samples taken by rubbing a cotton cloth on surfaces to see if traces of radioactive particles can be found that would prove the presence of nuclear material.

Full analysis of the samples by spectrometry and other techniques can take up to six weeks.

David Donahue, a unit leader at the IAEA's Seibersdorf laboratory which analyzes the swipes, said Friday that "some Parchin analysis has been done." He refused to say what the results were.

But he said Seibersdorf had more swipes to analyze and would be doing more intensive tests on swipes already run through spectrometry experiments.

In addition, the IAEA is waiting for results from a second lab, in another country, to confirm the results.

Donahue said IAEA inspectors take six swipes at a time so they have replicas and then have at least two analyzed. Others are stored in archives.

Donahue refused to indicate the total number of swipes taken at Parchin on November 1 but he said: "It's not hundreds."


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