Iran Nuclear 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran has offered some cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency in its probe of an alleged secret uranium processing project linked by US intelligence to a nuclear arms program - even while dismissing such claims as "baseless allegations."
The pledge was contained in a memorandum reached between Iran and the IAEA and published Monday on the agency's Web site at the request of Teheran's mission to the agency. In it, Teheran also outlined its timetable for providing other sensitive information sought by the IAEA in its probe of more than two decades of nuclear activity by the Islamic republic, most of it clandestine until revealed more than four years ago.
The document reiterated Iran's allegations that the search for information on the so-called "Green Salt Project" was "politically motivated" and founded on "baseless allegations."
But as a "sign of goodwill and cooperation with the agency .. . Iran will review" documentation on the project provided by the agency "and inform the agency of its assessment," according to the memorandum
There was no official comment from the IAEA. But a diplomat familiar with the agreement suggested that while the document was encouraging in reflecting agreement between Teheran and the agency on the focus of outstanding questions, its language was loose enough to allow Iran loopholes, should it not decide to fully honor its commitments.
"Iran has now a few months to demonstrate that they are truly serious about finally coming forward on these crucial issues that have left the world suspicious," said the diplomat, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential matters with The Associated Press.
And even if the answers provided on Iran on past activities revealed no signs that it had clandestinely tried to make weapons, it would still not resolve "the difficult part - which is to provide assurances that there are no undeclared nuclear activities at present," said the diplomat.
Less than a week ago, Iran and the Vienna-based IAEA announced an agreement on the timetable for full Iranian cooperation with the agency's nuclear investigation. It is only one of the demands set by the UN Security Council in attempts to dispel suspicions that Iranian claims it wants to develop a full nuclear cycle for generating power is merely a cover for a covert weapons program.
But of most concern to the council are activities that could lead directly to the making of nuclear weapons. Teheran has defied demands to stop developing its uranium enrichment program, which can produce fuel and the core of warheads, and mothball construction of a plutonium-producing reactor which, once completed, can also make weapons material, leading to two sets of council sanctions.
In the past, Iran has refused to answer questions about secret plutonium experiments in the mid-1990s and IAEA findings that Iran has not accounted for all the plutonium it has said it possessed.
IAEA experts also want to know more about unexplained traces of plutonium and enriched uranium found last year at a nuclear waste facility, apparent black market purchases of polonium 210 - which can act as a trigger for a nuclear device - diagrams showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads and about the "Green Salt Project."
Diplomats told the AP last year that the agency was trying to follow up on US intelligence that described that project as linking uranium enrichment-related experiments to nuclear-related high explosives and warhead design.
Other IAEA findings of concern include traces of enriched uranium found at a military site, and Iranian diagrams the IAEA has seen that explain how to form uranium metal into the shape of a warhead - all questions that the Iranian memorandum pledged to answer to the agency's full satisfaction after already meeting less thorny IAEA requests over the past few weeks.
Public mention of the "Green Salt Project" first surfaced in an IAEA report drawn up last year.
The report voiced concern that under the "Green Salt Project," conversion of uranium - a precursor of enrichment - was linked to suspected tests of "high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could have a military nuclear dimension."
Diplomats familiar with the report said the IAEA was basing its concerns on several pages of US intelligence that had been declassified and shared with agency officials so that they could confront the Iranians with it. Among the links, they said, was the participation of several officials on conversion, high explosives - which can be used to detonate a nuclear charge - and warhead design work.
Uranium conversion is the chemical process that changes raw uranium into the gas fed into centrifuges and spun repeatedly to separate out isotopes. Low enriched uranium can be used to make energy - which Iran insists is its only goal. But highly enriched uranium is used to make nuclear weapons.