ElBaradei urges Iran to clarify atom arms allegations

By Mark Heinrich and Karin Strohecker
Monday, March 3, 2008; 2:44 PM

VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief prodded Iran on Monday to cooperate with an investigation of intelligence saying it studied how to make atom bombs, as more U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iran to crank up pressure.

Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency said the intelligence was fake, there were no more questions requiring answers and a February 22 IAEA report certified that the aims of Tehran's nuclear energy program were wholly peaceful.

IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei disputed this, saying that while improved Iranian transparency had settled other questions about its activities, intelligence suggesting Tehran sought to "weaponize" nuclear materials remained a pressing issue.

"Iran continues to maintain that these alleged weaponization studies are related to conventional weapons only or fabricated. However a full-fledged examination of this issue has yet to take place," he said in a speech launching an IAEA governors meeting.

"I urge Iran to be as active and cooperative as possible in working with the agency to clarify this matter of serious concern," he told the 35-nation policy-making board.

Iran has pursued a uranium-enrichment program it says is meant only to generate electricity, but whose centrifuge technology could be turned to yielding atomic bombs.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council approved a third, tougher set of sanctions by a 14-0 vote with one abstention, citing Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment, failure to fully clarify past nuclear work and continued curbs on IAEA inspections.

European powers who spearheaded the U.N. resolution drafted another for the IAEA board, the first in two years, with the aim of demonstrating broad international resolve in getting Iran to prove the intelligence is false, diplomats said.


A draft of the text obtained by Reuters said the board "firmly supports (ElBaradei's) request that Iran engage actively with the agency in a more detailed examination of the documents available about the alleged studies."

It said the IAEA would be unable to verify Iran has no parallel, hidden military nuclear program "before reaching some clarity on the alleged studies" and unless Tehran adopted an IAEA protocol allowing unfettered snap inspections.

The cautious wording, avoiding condemnation, was tailored to gain support of Non-Aligned Movement developing nations, which comprise a third of IAEA governors and are skeptical of the intelligence. Iran is part of the NAM but not on the IAEA board.

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