'Iran research center had key role in atom work'

New study will likely cast further doubt on Tehran's denials that it's seeking atomic bombs; new IAEA report due in days.

By REUTERS
February 23, 2012 03:00
1 minute read.
A group of scientists in Tehran nuclear center

Iranian Scientists 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

UNITED NATIONS - An Iranian research center that has been investigated by UN nuclear inspectors appears to have played a key role in Tehran's atomic program, which Western powers fear is aimed at producing weapons, according to a new report released on Wednesday.

The study by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) will likely cast further doubt on Tehran's denials that it is seeking atomic bombs as the UN nuclear agency prepares to publish a new report on Iran in the coming days.

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Iran's Physics Research Center was established in 1989 "as part of an effort to create an undeclared nuclear program," according to ISIS's president David Albright, a nuclear expert and former inspector for the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as Andrea Stricker and Paul Brannan.

"Although Iran has admitted that the PHRC was related to the military and had a nuclear purpose in the area of defense preparedness and radiation detection, its actual nuclear role appears much more extensive," the ISIS report said.

The Iranian research center was established a year after the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, in which Saddam Hussein's troops used chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers.

According to the UN nuclear watchdog's November 2011 report on Iran, the Physics Research Center was established at Lavizan, a complex near a military installation in Tehran.

Lavizan was completely razed in late 2003 and early 2004. Western diplomats and intelligence sources said at the time that they suspected Tehran was conducting undeclared nuclear activities at Lavizan and was determined to cover them up.

ISIS said it has acquired more than 1,600 telexes relating to the nuclear procurement activities of the Physics Research Center and Sharif University, another Iranian institution involved in Tehran's nuclear research, in the 1990s.

"Iran has failed to declare all of PHRC's activities to the (IAEA)," the Albright group's report says. "Iran has stated to the IAEA that the PHRC procurements were not related to a nuclear program. The information assembled in this ISIS report, however, contradicts this claim."

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