UN chief nuke inspector critical of Iran
Monday, March 7, 2011; 11:11 AM
VIENNA -- The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Monday he cannot guarantee that Iran is not trying to develop atomic arms, comments that reflect the lack of progress in his attempts to probe Tehran's nuclear secrecy.
Yukiya Amano, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said that Iran may have worked on a nuclear arms program past 2004, indirectly contradicting U.S. intelligence estimates in the public domain.
U. S. officials said last month that a newly drawn up National Intelligence Estimate concludes Iran's leaders are split over whether to use their nuclear program to develop atomic weapons. But they did not specify whether the new document revised a conclusion arrived at in 2007 that Tehran had abandoned attempts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. That report was disputed by Israel and several European intelligence services.
Amano's comments Monday follow even stronger warnings in a confidential report last month, when he said Iran may be working on a secret nuclear weapons program even now.
In that report, obtained by The Associated Press, Amano expressed concern about the possible existence of "current undisclosed nuclear related activities ... related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
Amano on Friday said his organization needed more openness from Iran to come to a definite conclusion.
"We are not saying that Iran has a nuclear weapons program," he told reporters. "We have concerns and we want to clarify the matter."
Separately Friday, Amano told the 35-nation IAEA board that Iran is refusing to cooperate with an IAEA probe of its programs.
"Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran," Amano told the board's opening session.
That, he said meant that the IAEA cannot "conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
His comments were similar to previous statements, pointing to a lack of IAEA progress since he took office 15 months ago to prove or disprove U.S. and other intelligence alleging hidden experimental nuclear weapons work by Iran.
"Unfortunately, since I came into office, Iran has not interacted with us," he said. "There has not been progress."
Because Iran also refuses to give the agency more intrusive inspecting powers it also cannot follow up on concerns that Tehran might be enriching uranium at sites it has not declared.
The U.N. Security Council has slapped four sets of sanctions on Tehran for its refusal to stop enriching, which Iran says it needs to make fuel for a future reactor network but which can also be used to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Enrichment for peaceful purposes is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the Islamic Republic's nuclear secrecy has added to concerns. Beyond refusal to cooperate with the IAEA program of alleged nuclear weapons programs experiments, its enrichment program was clandestine until a dissident group revealed it nearly a decade ago.
In comments made available to reporters, Amano also told the closed meeting that Syria continues to stonewall an investigation of a site suspected to have been a secretly built reactor that would have produced plutonium once finished. Israeli warplanes destroyed that structure three years ago.