U.N. nuclear agency faults Iran for not answering key questions (LA TIMES) By Ken Dilanian WASHINGTON 02/25/12)
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The IAEA says Iran has boosted production of enriched uranium, but
the agency´s report does little to resolve Western concern Tehran is
seeking to build a bomb.
Iran has stepped up production of enriched uranium and has refused to
answer key questions about its nuclear development program, the
United Nations atomic watchdog agency declared Friday in a strongly
worded report that does little to resolve Western concern about
whether Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb.
U.N. nuclear inspectors continue "to have serious concerns regarding
possible military dimensions to Iran´s nuclear program," Yukiya
Amano, director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic
Energy Agency, writes in the report issued Friday.
"As Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation … the agency is
unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared
nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude
that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities," Amano
Tension over Iran has risen sharply in recent weeks as the United
States and the European Union have imposed additional sanctions on
Tehran´s oil exports and banking sector. The strain comes amid
reports of sabotage at Iranian nuclear and missile facilities and
threats that Israel might launch a preemptive military strike on
Iran´s nuclear sites.
Iran has stepped up its uranium enrichment efforts at several sites
in recent months, including Fordow, a once-secret facility near the
city of Qom, the report says. Tehran acknowledged the Fordow facility
to the IAEA in 2009, after Western intelligence agencies say they
first discovered it.
The arrays of centrifuges at Fordow, however, are less sophisticated
than the system Iran initially intended to install, the report says.
Iran says it is enriching uranium for energy and other peaceful
purposes, but highly enriched uranium can be used for nuclear
weapons. The facility at Fordow has caused concern because it is deep
underground and thus may be protected from a military airstrike.
The report indicates that Iran is enriching uranium to a level of
20%, a purity level higher than needed for reactors to produce
electricity. Tehran says it is enriching nuclear fuel to 20% for use
in a civilian research reactor. Experts say the material can be
quickly upgraded to the 90% level needed for a bomb if Iran chooses
to do so.
Iranian officials refused to allow IAEA inspectors to visit the
Parchin military base on two recent trips. In 2000, Iran built a
large explosives containment vessel at Parchin to conduct experiments
that are "strong indicators of possible weapon development,"
according to an IAEA report issued last November.
U.S. intelligence agencies years ago concluded that Iran´s leaders
halted nuclear weapons development in 2003. The IAEA inspections are
designed, in part, to see whether any illicit work has resumed, which
would violate Iran´s obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty. In the Nov. 8 report, the inspectors warn that clandestine
research on high-speed detonators and other technology "may still be
White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said the latest
report "confirms what we already knew: Iran has continued to pursue
its uranium enrichment program in violation of multiple United
Nations Security Council resolutions without demonstrating any
credible or legitimate purpose for doing so."
Until Iran stops "stonewalling" international inspectors and suspends
its enrichment program, "its isolation from the international
community will only continue to grow," Vietor said. (Copyright © 2012
Los Angeles Times 02/25/12)
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