US study: Iran research center had key role in atom work (REUTERS) By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS 02/22/12 5:42pm EST)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - An Iranian research center that has been investigated by
U.N. nuclear inspectors appears to have played a key role in Tehran´s
atomic program, which Western powers fear is aimed at producing
weapons, according to a new report released on Wednesday.
The study by the Washington-based Institute for Science and
International Security (ISIS) will likely cast further doubt on
Tehran´s denials that it is seeking atomic bombs as the U.N. nuclear
agency prepares to publish a new report on Iran in the coming days.
Iran´s Physics Research Center was established in 1989 "as part of an
effort to create an undeclared nuclear program," according to ISIS´s
president David Albright, a nuclear expert and former inspector for
the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as Andrea
Stricker and Paul Brannan.
"Although Iran has admitted that the PHRC was related to the military
and had a nuclear purpose in the area of defense preparedness and
radiation detection, its actual nuclear role appears much more
extensive," the ISIS report said.
The Iranian research center was established a year after the end of
the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, in which Saddam Hussein´s troops used
chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers.
According to the U.N. nuclear watchdog´s November 2011 report on
Iran, the Physics Research Center was established at Lavizan, a
complex near a military installation in Tehran.
Lavizan was completely razed in late 2003 and early 2004. Western
diplomats and intelligence sources said at the time that they
suspected Tehran was conducting undeclared nuclear activities at
Lavizan and was determined to cover them up.
ISIS said it has acquired more than 1,600 telexes relating to the
nuclear procurement activities of the Physics Research Center and
Sharif University, another Iranian institution involved in Tehran´s
nuclear research, in the 1990s.
"Iran has failed to declare all of PHRC´s activities to the (IAEA),"
the Albright group´s report says. "Iran has stated to the IAEA that
the PHRC procurements were not related to a nuclear program. The
information assembled in this ISIS report, however, contradicts this
If the allegations are confirmed, they could show that Iran´s
suspected nuclear cover-up is far more extensive than was previously
known. This may annoy Iranian allies such as Russia and China, which
have slowed the push for new sanctions on Iran while pressing Tehran
to cooperate with the IAEA.
While the exact nature and full scope of the Physics Research
Center´s nuclear-related activities "remains difficult to fully
understand," Albright´s report said it is time for the Iranians to
come clean about the center´s past work.
"Iran should clarify PHRC´s exact purpose and accomplishments and its
relationship to the IAEA´s broader question of the military
dimensions of Iran´s nuclear effort," the report said.
U.N. nuclear officials have repeatedly complained that Iran has not
fully cooperated with their attempts to shed light on the full extent
of Iran´s nuclear program, which it kept hidden from agency
inspectors for nearly two decades until 2003.
The IAEA sent several senior officials to Iran recently to persuade
Tehran to grant them greater access to the nuclear facilities but
failed to win any pledges to boost cooperation. The setback could
raise the risk of confrontation between Iran and the West.
The IAEA has been looking into the Physics Research Center, which
acted as an umbrella organization under Iran´s defense ministry and
coordinated various nuclear activities.
According to the IAEA, by the early 2000s, the Physics Research
Center´s activities had been folded into the so-called AMAD Plan,
which was responsible for what the IAEA refers to as "alleged
studies" into research and development relevant to building nuclear
weapons. (Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; editing by Christopher
Wilson) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 02/22/12)
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