'IAEA hiding incriminating evidence'

Israel calls on world to "take substantive steps" toward terminating Teheran's nuclear program.

Iran Nuclear 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Iran Nuclear 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Despite the publication of a critical report on Iran's nuclear program, senior Israeli diplomatic officials are accusing the International Atomic Energy Agency of "hiding critical information on Iran's nuclear progress," the Foreign Ministry said Saturday. IAEA officials said Iran was stonewalling the agency about "possible military dimensions" to its program. In the report, the IAEA said it has pressed Iran to clarify its uranium enrichment activities and reassure the world that it's not trying to build an atomic weapon. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a prepared statement that the latest IAEA report, released Friday, "accuses Iran of defying [UN] Security Council decisions, but at the same time hides actual Iranian violations on its path toward military nuclear capability," "This is a harsh report, but it does not reflect all the information possessed by the IAEA on Iranian efforts to advance its military program, on its continuing efforts to hide and deceive, and on [Iran's] noncooperation with the IAEA and the demands of the international community," the statement read. "The IAEA is the only body recognized by the international community that can prevent the games of deception being played by Iran as it works to build nuclear weapons," a senior Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post Saturday. While Israeli officials would not give details about the information the IAEA was allegedly hiding, "we're talking about information that would be far more incriminating for Iran," the official said. "The 35 member states of the IAEA can't let [the organization] get away with hiding critical information on the dangers of the Iranian program," the official added. The report was released ahead of two crucial meetings - this Wednesday's six-power talks on Iran, where increased sanctions are likely to be the main topic of discussion, and the September 7 gathering in Vienna of the IAEA Board of Governors, the 35-country policy-making branch of the organization. "Israel expects the international community to take substantive steps soon toward terminating Iran's military nuclear program," the Foreign Ministry's statement added, in a remark apparently addressed to the international gatherings. Meanwhile, the Iranian government reacted positively to the report's publication. The report confirmed "that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful," Iran's envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the Fars news agency on Saturday. "It shows Iran has continued its cooperation with the agency ... but at the same time will not accept any political pressure to take measures beyond its legal commitments," he said, according to Reuters. The IAEA acknowledged that Teheran had been producing nuclear fuel at a slower rate and had allowed UN inspectors broader access to its main nuclear complex in the southern city of Natanz. But the Vienna-based agency bluntly stated that "Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities. "There remain a number of outstanding issues which give rise to concerns and which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," according to the report. The IAEA "does not consider that Iran has adequately addressed the substance of the issues, having focused instead on the style and form... and providing limited answers and simple denials," it claimed. The report raised the specter of harsher international sanctions against Iran for not answering lingering questions about its nuclear activities. US President Barack Obama has given Teheran something of an ultimatum: Stop enriching uranium or face harsher penalties. If it stops, it could get trade benefits from the six countries engaged in the talks: the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. Last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Iran that if it doesn't respond, it could face stronger sanctions in the energy and financial sectors. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meanwhile, suggested unspecified "severe" new sanctions against Iran if it continues its nuclear activities. Despite the pressure, senior UN officials said Friday that Iran has been feeding uranium ore into its 8,300 centrifuges at a reduced rate, suggesting that sanctions already in place may be hampering its program. "We need further explanations," a Western diplomat told AP.