IRAN has accelerated its nuclear fuel enrichment activities and rejected calls from international inspectors to explain evidence that raises suspicions of a nuclear weapons program, according to a report by a United Nations agency.
These steps could make it easier for the US and its European partners to seek punitive action in the Security Council.
But the assessment, contained in an 11-page report released on Monday by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stopped short of declaring that Iran’s nuclear program might be related to a weapons program, surprising some governments and even some agency officials who had predicted a harsher verdict.
The report laid out a long list of fresh examples in which Iran has obstructed the agency, responding with incomplete and ambiguous answers and refusing requests to turn over documents and information. It called it “regrettable and a matter of concern” that Iran had not been more forthcoming after three years of intensive agency verification.
In an indication it is prepared to take a tougher line against the agency and even against the US, Iran told inspectors on Sunday that documents obtained by US intelligence suggesting links between Iran’s nuclear activities and its missile program were forgeries. The documents make reference to a secretive entity called the Green Salt Project, and seem to suggest that the project established “administrative inter-connections” between Iran’s uranium processing, high explosives and missile warhead design.
If accurate, the documents would be the first to tie what Iran says is a purely civilian nuclear program to military activities.
But those allegations “are based on false and fabricated documents,” Iranian authorities were quoted as telling an agency inspection team on Sunday, an assertion that came after months of pledges by Iran to provide information on the matter. They also declared that no such project had ever existed.
The report gave no further information about the encounter and left unclear whether the Iranians had taken possession of copies of the disputed Green Salt documents, which would seem to be a necessary step if Tehran were to subject them to serious forensic examination and pass judgement on their authenticity.
But the Iranian comments seemed designed to call into question the reliability of US intelligence reports on Iran and to remind the international community of the far-reaching American intelligence failure in overstating Iraq’s nuclear program in the months before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In another disturbing development, Iran informed the agency that it planned to set up 3000 centrifuges as it moves towards industrial-scale uranium enrichment, ignoring international demands that it return to a freeze on such activities at its facility at Natanz, the report said. That would be enough to make a weapon.
The site is eventually to hold 50,000 of the machines, which would give Iran the technical ability to purify large amounts of uranium for either nuclear reactors or atomic bombs.