Friday, November 18, 2005

UN watchdog agency finalizing nuclear report on Iran

Yahoo News:

Fri Nov 18, 3:22 AM ET

VIENNA (AFP) - UN atomic inspectors were finalizing a key report on Iran's nuclear program, as the West meets with Russia and China over a deadlock on getting guarantees Tehran will not make atomic weapons, diplomats told AFP.

The report is expected to be released Friday and then presented to a meeting in Vienna next week of the 35-nation board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will consider whether to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

The board is stymied as Russia, Iran's ally and supplier of nuclear technology, opposes the push by the United States and the European Union to bring Tehran before the Security Council.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns would meet in London Friday with EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany as well as Russia and China to discuss what he called Iran's "unwelcome move" to resume uranium conversion.

The move is viewed "with concern," said spokesman Adam Ereli. Iran on Wednesday started a new round of converting uranium ore into into the gas that is the precursor for making enriched uranium.

Enriched uranium can be fuel for civilian power reactors or the raw material for nuclear bombs.

"It is the latest in a series of moves by Iran that, frankly, go against what they themselves have committed themselves to and what the international community has asked of them," Ereli said.

In South Korea, US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin were to meet Friday for talks Washington hopes to focus on nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

Iran has insisted it has a right to develop nuclear fuel for a civilian program designed to produce electricity but the United States and the EU fear Tehran is pursuing a clandestine atomic weapons program.

The London meeting comes after the trio of EU negotiators rejected a Russian proposal to host a meeting with Iran in Moscow early next week. Russian is trying to find a compromise between the EU and Iran.

Talks with the EU aimed at securing guarantees that Iran's program is peaceful collapsed last August when Iran broke a suspension of uranium conversion it had undertaken as a confidence-building measure.

In September, the IAEA board passed a resolution calling on Iran to cease all nuclear fuel work, to return to talks with the EU and to cooperate fully in the IAEA's investigation into its atomic program.

The report expected Friday from IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei will be the latest in an investigation that began in February 2003.

Diplomats said IAEA inspectors have found two cases of equipment that raises suspicions of nuclear weapons work but it was not clear if this would be in the report. The first relates to an offer made by black marketeers to Iran in 1987 of equipment for uranium re-conversion and casting capabilities, a diplomat said.

Iran claims it did not take up this offer but IAEA inspectors have found a document that describes in detail uranium metal casting procedures, including how to make hemispheric shapes that would be essential in shaping a bomb.

The diplomat said IAEA inspectors want to know why Iran never told them this was part of the 1987 offer.

The second disturbing finding is a high-speed electronic streak camera IAEA inspectors saw at Iran's Parchin military facility and which could document the implosion explosion that sets off an atomic bomb.

Initial results from an IAEA inspection of Parchin earlier this month showed no sign of nuclear activity, diplomats said, in an apparent strengthening of Iran's case, although final results are not yet in.

Washington charges that Iran is doing nuclear weapons work at the explosives testing center, although this could be in non-nuclear "dry" tests of how such a weapon would function and that would leave no radioactive trace.


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