iran nuclear 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
UN inspectors have found traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian research center linked to the military, diplomats said Friday, which could strengthen arguments that Teheran wants to develop nuclear arms.
The diplomats - who demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the confidential information - cautioned that confirmation still had to come through other laboratory tests. But they said the density of enrichment appeared to be close to or above the level used to make nuclear warheads.
Still, they said, further analysis could show that the find matches others established to have come from abroad. The International Atomic Energy Agency determined earlier traces of weapons-grade uranium were imported on equipment from Pakistan that Iran bought on the black market during nearly two decades of clandestine activity discovered just over three years ago.
Even then, however, the find would be significant.
Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has met with Mossad chief Meir Dagan, and decided that the Mossad would continue to investigate Iran's progress in its nuclear enrichment project, Army Radio reported.
Because Iran has previously denied conducting enrichment-related activities at the site, the mere fact that the traces came from there bolsters arguments that it has hidden parts of a program that can create the fissile material used in nuclear warheads. Additionally, the site's connection to the military weakens Iranian arguments that their nuclear program is purely civilian.
The development was still unlikely to result in an immediate American push for strong UN Security Council action against Tehran.
The Americans recently agreed to put such efforts on hold and give new European-led attempts to find a negotiated solution to the Iran crisis a chance in the face of fierce Russian and Chinese opposition to US-led calls for a strong signal from the council.
Specifically, Moscow and Beijing have balked at British, French and US efforts to put the Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Such a move would declare Iran a threat to international peace and security and set the stage for further measures if Tehran refuses to suspend its uranium enrichment operations. Those measures could range from breaking diplomatic relations to economic sanctions and military action.
Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac said Friday that a proposed UN Security Council resolution on the standoff over Iran's nuclear program "does not automatically entail" use of force.
Chirac said France was not against a tough resolution aimed at pushing Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program, but stressed it should not lead to the automatic use of military force or sanctions if Iran refuses.
"Our objective is to have a resolution that may be obeyed," Chirac told reporters on the margins of an EU-Latin America leaders summit.
Chirac's comments appeared aimed at reassuring China and Russia, which object to attempts by Britain, France and the United States to draft the Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would make it enforceable by sanctions - or if necessary - military action.
"Our objective ... is that we be in a position to impose decisions taken by the Security Council," Chirac said when asked if the draft resolution was in contradiction to France's position on the Iran standoff.
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