IAEA: Iran's nukes 'also for army’

US: Findings consistent with ‘ongoing concerns about Iran’s activities.’

By BY HAVIV RETTIG GUR, AP
February 21, 2010 01:45
Ahmadinejad visits of the Natanz Uranium Enrichmen

Ahmadinejad visits Natanz 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Israel praised an International Atomic Energy Agency report released on Thursday that says Iran may be developing a nuclear warhead.

“The new IAEA report deals more sharply and clearly than its predecessors with the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Friday.

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Noting that the report is the first during the term of new IAEA chief Yukiya Amano of Japan, Israel said it “establishes that the agency has a lot of trustworthy information about the past and present activities that testify to the military tendencies of the Iranian program.”

Among these activities were the recently declared decisions to enrich uranium to 20 percent and the continued construction of the Qom nuclear facility, kept secret until it was discovered by Western intelligence agencies and made public in recent months.

The UN nuclear agency report suggested for the first time that Teheran had either resumed such work or had never stopped when US intelligence thought it did.

Thursday’s report appeared to put the UN nuclear monitor on the side of Germany, France, Britain and Israel. These nations and other US allies have disputed the conclusions of a US intelligence assessment published three years ago that said Teheran appeared to have suspended such work in 2003.

The US assessment itself may be revised and is being looked at again by American intelligence agencies. While US officials continue to say the 2007 conclusion was valid at the time, they have not ruled out the possibility that Teheran subsequently resumed such work.



The confidential IAEA report said Iran’s resistance to agency efforts to probe for signs of a nuclear cover-up “give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, told the official IRNA news agency that the report “verified the peaceful, nonmilitary nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.”

But in Washington, US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the findings were consistent with what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been saying “on our ongoing concerns about Iran’s activities.”

The language of the report appeared to be more directly critical of Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA than most of those compiled by Amano’s predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt.

It strongly suggested that intelligence supplied by the US, Israel and other IAEA member states on Iran’s attempts to use the cover of a civilian nuclear program to move toward a weapons program was compelling.

“The information available to the agency... is broadly consistent and credible in terms of the technical detail, the time frame in which the activities were conducted and the people and organizations involved,” read the report, prepared for next month’s IAEA board meeting.

“Altogether, this raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” said the report, which was also sent to the UN Security Council.

According to Israel, the report reflects “the lack of cooperation from Iran with the agency’s investigation of its activities” and “the continuing systematic violation of decisions of the Security Council and the IAEA’s Board of Governors.”

Meanwhile on Friday, Russia’s foreign minister said he was “very alarmed” over Iran’s failure to prove its nuclear program is peaceful, suggesting Moscow may be closer to acceding to Western demands for new UN sanctions against Teheran.

“We are very alarmed, and we cannot accept that Iran is refusing to cooperate” with the IAEA, Lavrov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. He added that he did not understand the need for Iran to conduct its nuclear program in secret, withholding information from the IAEA.

However, Sergey Lavrov’s deputy said later on Friday that Russia still opposed crippling sanctions, returning to the traditional rhetoric Moscow has used for its “partner” and business ally.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov seemed to step back from support for sanctions in comments reported by Interfax.

“We find the term ‘paralyzing sanctions’ completely unacceptable. Sanctions should follow the aim of strengthening the regime of nuclear nonproliferation,” he said, adding that Russia would fulfill its contract with Iran to deliver S-300 missile systems that Israel and other states fear would be an effective defense against possible Israeli or Western military strikes on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used a Friday visit to a newly launched Iranian guided-missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf to deny that Teheran was seeking nuclear weapons, and to criticize the US military presence in the Gulf.

Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, said his country was not developing nuclear weapons because Islam forbids weapons of mass destruction.

“Because of this reason, we don’t have any belief in the atomic bomb and don’t pursue it,” he said after taking a tour of the destroyer Jamaran. State television, which broadcast the event, said the warship was the country’s first domestically built destroyer and a major technological leap for Iran’s naval industries.

Khamenei, who also is the commander-in-chief of his country’s armed forces, said Washington was trying to frighten Iran’s Arab neighbors into buying US weapons. He also said America and Israel were trying to sow divisions between Iran and Arab nations.

“The US and the Zionist regime are trying to spread divisions to distract the attention of Islamic nations from the main enemies of the Islamic world, which are the US and Israel,” Khamenei said in remarks broadcast on state TV.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the IAEA report “underscores that Iran continues to flout its international obligations” and indicates that Teheran is pursuing “a nuclear weapons program with the purpose of evasion.”

The United States has circulated elements for a possible new UN sanctions resolution to other veto-wielding UN Security Council members – Russia, China, Britain and France – and Germany. The six countries have been trying, to no avail, to get Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program and return to negotiations on its nuclear program.

Rice told reporters at UN headquarters in New York that the report also demonstrates “the urgency” that Teheran must now engage the international community on its nuclear program or “face increased international pressure.”

The French Foreign Ministry went further in a statement on Friday, saying the IAEA report “shows how urgent it is to take resolute action to respond to Iran’s lack of cooperation.”

“We now have no other choice, given this report, than to seek, together with our partners, the adoption of new measures by the UN Security Council over the next few weeks,” the ministry said in a statement.

The United States and its Western allies have been pushing for a fourth round of UN sanctions. But China, which relies on Iran’s energy exports, is skeptical of any new sanctions.  

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