VIENNA, Austria – Iran has met a key demand of the U.N. nuclear agency by delivering blueprints that show how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads, diplomats said Tuesday, in an apparent concession meant to stave off the threat of new U.N. sanctions.
But the diplomats said Tehran has failed to meet other requests made by the International Atomic Energy Agency in its attempts to end nearly two decades of nuclear secrecy on the part of the Islamic Republic.
The diplomats spoke to The Associated Press as IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei put the finishing touches on his latest report to the agency’s 35-nation board of governors, for consideration during a meeting that begins on Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day.
The confidential report, expected to be distributed to agency members this Wednesday or Thursday, is likely to show substantial but not full compliance by Iran with its pledges to come clean on past activities — and confirm at the same time that Tehran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of the U.N. Security Council.
Those findings will likely lead to new calls by the United States, France and Britain for a third round of U.N. sanctions. But China and Russia, the other permanent Council members, may emphasize progress made,and demand more time for Iran before fresh U.N. penalties are imposed.
The agency has been seeking possession of the blueprints since 2005, when it stumbled upon them among a batch of other documents during its examination of suspect Iranian nuclear activities. While agency inspectors had been allowed to examine them in the country, Tehran had up to now refused to let the IAEA have a copy for closer perusal.
Diplomats accredited to the agency, who demanded anonymity for divulging confidential information, said the drawings were hand-carried by Mohammad Saeedi, deputy director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and handed over last week in Vienna to Oli Heinonen, an ElBaradei deputy in charge of the Iran investigations.
Iran maintains it was given the papers without asking for them during its black market purchases of nuclear equipment decades ago that serve as the backbone of its program to enrich uranium — a process that can generate power or create the fissile core of nuclear warheads. Iran’s refusal to suspend enrichment has been the main trigger for both existing U.N. sanctions and the threat of new ones.
Iran, which says it has a right to enrich to generate power, has repeatedly said it will not mothball its program.
Both the IAEA and other experts have categorized the instructions outlined in the blueprints as having no value outside of a nuclear weapons program.
While ElBaradei’s report is likely to mention the Iranian concession on the drawings and other progress made in clearing up ambiguities in Iran’s nuclear activities, it was unclear whether it would also detail examples of what the diplomats said was continued Iranian stonewalling.
Senior IAEA officials were refused interviews with at least two top Iranian nuclear officials suspected of possible involvement in a weapons program, they said. One was the leader of a physics laboratory at Lavizan, outside Tehran, which was razed before the agency had a chance to investigate activities there. The other was in charge of developing Iran’s centrifuges, used to enrich uranium.
Additionally, agency experts were denied access to a workshop testing and developing a more advanced kind of centrifuge than Iran is now using for its enrichment program, they said.
The agency traditionally refuses to comment on the report — which is confidential and meant only for circulation among board member nations — particularly before it is released to those countries.
A senior diplomat familiar with agency thinking said the IAEA “got what it needed” in terms of access to officials and nuclear sites, although he declined to specifically say whether all requests were honored by Iran.
He also provided a different take on what two other diplomats said was a rebuff by Iran of attempts by ElBaradei to meet with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The two said ElBaradei had suggested the meeting and he was turned away in part because he was seeking faster Iranian responses to questions posed by his experts as well as saying he wanted to discuss a “double time-out” — shorthand for Iran suspending further enrichment activities in exchange for a pledge to freeze, or perhaps even roll back U.N. sanctions.
But the senior diplomat said it was the Iranians who asked ElBaradei to come, “offering something in return,” but then said the time was inopportune after the IAEA chief asked to meet with Khamenei instead of lower-ranked officials.