Iran: Enriched uranium traces a ´technical issue´ (AP) Associated Press) By NASSER KARIMI TEHRAN, IRAN 05/26/12 4:16 pm ET)
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TEHRAN, Iran – A top Iranian nuclear official said that traces of
enriched uranium discovered at an underground bunker came from
a "routine technical issue," the country´s official IRNA news agency
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran´s envoy to the International Atomic
Energy Agency, was responding to a report by the U.N. nuclear
watchdog that said it had found radioactive traces at an Iranian
nuclear site. The uranium found had been enriched to a level that is
slightly closer to the threshold needed for nuclear weapons than
Iran´s previous highest-known enrichment grade.
The IAEA said in the confidential report obtained Friday by The
Associated Press that it was asking Tehran for a full explanation
about the traces. But the report was careful to avoid any suggestion
that Iran was intentionally increasing the level of its uranium
Tehran said the find was a technical glitch, according to the report.
Analysts and diplomats said Iran´s version sounded plausible.
The West suspects Iran is pursuing a weapons program. Tehran denies
the charge, saying its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful purposes
like power generation and cancer treatment.
Soltanieh said the report on Iran´s nuclear activities was "historic
evidence" that proved the peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear
activities, while the uranium discovery was blown out of proportion
for political reasons.
"This issue shows that some intend to damage the existing
constructive cooperation between Tehran and the International Atomic
Energy Agency," he was quoted as saying.
The higher the enrichment, the easier it becomes to re-enrich uranium
to the 90 percent needed for weapons grade. As a result, the finding
of traces at 27 percent at the Fordo enrichment plant in central Iran
sparked international interest.
Iran denies any plans to develop nuclear weapons, but has for years
declined offers of reactor fuel from abroad, including more recent
inducements of 20-percent material if it stops producing at that
level. The Islamic Republic says it wants to continue producing 20
percent uranium to fuel its research reactor and for medical purposes.
But its refusal to accept foreign offers has increased fears Tehran
may want to turn its enrichment activities toward producing such
arms. The concerns have been fed by IAEA suspicions that Iran has
experimented on components of an atomic arms program — suspicions
Tehran also denies.
The report cited a May 9 letter from Iranian officials suggesting any
enrichment at 27 percent was inadvertent. The letter said the
particles were produced "above the target value" and could have been
for "technical reasons beyond the operator´s control."
But the IAEA report did detail some progress in talks between the
U.N. nuclear agency and Iran that the agency hopes will relaunch a
long-stalled probe into the suspicions that Tehran has worked on
nuclear-weapons related experiments.
IRNA also reported that Iran´s nuclear chief, Fereidoun Abbasi, said
Saturday that Tehran will not open the Parchin site until the agency
convinces the country it is necessary.
"If a visit to Parchin is to happen, they should convince us in
advance. So far, no reason and evidence has been handed to us,"
Abbasi was quoted as saying.
After a short visit to Tehran last week, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said
Iran and the agency will sign an agreement on inspection to the site,
Iran and the world powers agreed to continue their talks in Moscow
later in June after they held another round of talk on the Tehran´s
controversial nuclear program in Baghdad last week, the second in
2012 after a long stall since early 2011. (© 2012 The Associated
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