'Iran amassing enriched uranium'

IAEA: Teheran has over 2 tonnes of material, Syria stonewalling probe.

June 1, 2010 07:50
3 minute read.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at a

Ahmadinejad at NPT 311. (photo credit: AP)

VIENNA — Iran has amassed more than two tons of enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday, in a report which heightened Western concerns about the country developing the ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

Two tons of uranium would be enough for two nuclear warheads, although Iran says it does not want weapons and is only pursuing civilian nuclear energy. The US and the four other permanent UN Security Council members — Russia, China, Britain and France — have tentatively backed a draft fourth set of UN sanctions against Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

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Separately, the IAEA — the UN nuclear watchdog — said Syria continues to stonewall agency reports to follow up on US assertions that a facility destroyed three years ago by Israeli warplanes was a secretly built reactor meant to produce plutonium.

"Syria has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008" on most aspects of its investigation, according to the IAEA's Syria report on Monday. But it noted that Syria has admitted to small-scale nuclear experiments that it had previously not owned up to.

Syria denies allegations it was being helped by Iran and North Korea in developing a covert program.

But diplomats familiar with the Syria probe told The Associated Press of a visit to Syria in January by a high-ranking Iranian nuclear delegation led by Mahdi Kaniki, a deputy to Ali Akhbar Salehi, an Iranian deputy president and head of his country's nuclear program. The two diplomats asked for anonymity because their information was confidential.

Restricted report: IAEA remains concerned on Iran

The restricted IAEA report said that the UN watchdog agency "remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities, involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."

On enrichment, the report made available to the AP shortly after release to the UN Security Council and the IAEA's 35-nation board said Iran had now enriched 2,427 kilograms to just over three percent level. That means shipping out 2,640 pounds (1,200 kilograms) now would still leave Iran with more than enough material to make a nuclear weapon. That makes the deal unattractive to the US and its allies

The report confirmed that Iran continues a separate program of small-scale enrichment of uranium, using 3.5 percent feedstock and enriching to near 20 percent — another hurdle for the West. Iran could produce weapons grade uranium much more quickly from the 20 percent level, making the separate program another hurdle to any fuel swap deal.

UN watchdog investigating nuclear equipment

The IAEA also said that equipment had been removed from a laboratory it was investigating, confirming a report last week to the AP from diplomats familiar with the issue.

At issue is pyroprocessing, a procedure that can be used to purify uranium metal used in nuclear warheads.

In January, Iran told the agency that it had carried out pyroprocessing experiments, prompting a request from the nuclear agency for more information — but then backtracked in March and denied conducting such activities.

IAEA experts last month revisited the site — the Jabr Ibn Jayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory in Tehran — only to establish "that the electrochemical cell had been removed" from the unit used in the experiments, said the report.

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