Analysts play down higher-grade uranium find in Iran (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Isabelle Le Page 05/25/12)
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Analysts have played down the UN atomic agency´s discovery of higher-
grade uranium traces in Iran, saying it was likely due to a technical
glitch rather than a covert attempt to enrich to arms grade.
The agency´s latest report, seen by AFP Friday, did however say that
satellite imagery showed "extensive activity" at the Parchin military
site, which it said could hamper investigating claims of suspected
nuclear weapons research there.
The International Atomic Energy Agency also revealed that its head,
Yukiya Amano, wanted in a visit to Tehran on May 21 to "conclude" a
deal on clarifying accusations of such research.
But Amano returned empty-handed, saying only that he and Iran´s chief
nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili made a "decision" to reach an
agreement, and that he expected this to be signed "quite soon."
The agency report said that the traces found at the Fordo site,
inside a mountain near Qom, were of uranium enriched to purities of
Iran has told the IAEA that the site was enriching only to 20
percent, which was already of concern to the watchdog since the
capability to do so shortens the theoretical time needed to enrich to
weapons-grade uranium of 90 percent.
"Iran indicated that the production of such particles ´above the
target value´ may happen for technical reasons beyond the operator´s
control," the report said.
"The agency is assessing Iran´s explanation and has requested further
details. On 5 May 2012, the agency took further environmental samples
from the same location.... These samples are currently being
analysed," it added.
Analysts played down the discovery, with Mark Fitzpatrick from the
International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank in London
saying it was "probably a technical glitch."
"There are good reasons to worry about Iran´s enrichment work but
this probably isn´t one of them," he told AFP.
Mark Hibbs, nuclear proliferation expert at the Carnegie Foundation
for International Peace, agreed, telling AFP that the
discovery "isn´t proof that Iran is clandestinely enriching uranium
to over 20 percent."
Hibbs added however that Amano "has to be concerned about that
possibility because of Iran´s track record of concealment and failure
to declare nuclear activities."
UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Iran has to build "international
confidence" that its nuclear program is peaceful, as he welcomed the
commitment to hold new talks.
The UN secretary general "hopes that Iran will take the necessary
measures to build and sustain international confidence in the
exclusively peaceful nature of its program," his spokesman said.
Western nations say Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran
says its drive is peaceful.
France called on Tehran to "cooperate unreservedly" with the UN
agency "to shed light on the persistent shadowy aread of its nuclear
programme," a French foreign ministry spokesman said.
Multiple UN Security Council resolutions have called on Iran to cease
all enrichment activities because of the IAEA being unable to verify
that they were purely for peaceful purposes.
The P5+1 powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France
and Germany -- proposed in a meeting with Iran this week that Iran
stop 20-percent enrichment and a suspension of all activities at
Fordo, diplomats said.
Iran is however loath to do any such thing without the prospect that
UN and unilateral sanctions imposed on the country in recent years --
more will hit on July 1 -- would be eased.
The P5+1´s proposals stopped short of this, offering instead a series
of lesser incentives that state media reports in Iran indicated
Tehran thought were woefully insufficient.
The two days of intense talks in Baghdad achieved very little other
than agreeing to meet again in Moscow on June 18-19.
The IAEA report also said that new satellite imagery
indicated "extensive activities" were taking place at buildings at
the Parchin military site near Tehran which the IAEA says it would
like to inspect but Iran has denied it.
The IAEA said that "virtually no activity had been observed for a
number of years" and that the apparent new work "could hamper the
agency´s ability to undertake effective verification."
Iran says Parchin is not a designated nuclear site and thus it is not
obliged to permit IAEA inspections, although it last did so in 2005.
It says if it did allow inspections of the site, they would have to
be part of an agreed "road map" that would address the IAEA´s
concerns in a set order. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse.
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