(AP) VIENNA, Austria – Some nuclear technology ordered by Libya for its former weapons program is missing, while the origin of other material is unclear, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Monday, raising concerns about where the equipment is and whether North Korea could have been a provider.
The IAEA findings on Libya’s now dismantled nuclear weapons program were circulated to diplomats in a confidential report obtained by The Associated Press ahead of a meeting of the agency’s board of governors. That meeting, which starts Sept. 13, will review the progress of IAEA investigations into secret nuclear activities by Libya and Iran.
The Iran report is expected to be released to diplomats in the next few days. While Iran denies accusations by the United States and others that its nuclear program is geared toward making weapons, Libya went public about its weapons programs in December and pledged to scrap them.
In the report Monday, the agency credited Libya with cooperation in efforts to get to the bottom of its activities, but said some questions remained.
Among them was the issue of some “enrichment technology” that was missing after Libya ordered but never received it.
The report also said the origin of two cylinders of uranium hexafluoride remains unknown. The material is introduced into centrifuges and spun to enrich it. Uranium enriched to 90 percent or above is considered weapons grade and is used in the manufacture of warheads.
The report confirmed that uranium hexafluoride was bought in 2000 “from a foreign supplier,” but came to no conclusion of where the substance originated from.
A senior diplomat familiar with the Libyan investigation said the agency remained uncertain about whether the uranium hexafluoride was purchased on the black market from Pakistan or North Korea.
While Pakistan was the source of much of the enrichment technology peddled by the black market network of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, North Korea has also been mentioned previously by experts and diplomats as a possible source for Libya’s uranium hexafluoride.
North Korea admitted in 2002 to running a secret nuclear program in violation of international agreements. The isolated communist nation subsequently broke all agreements with the IAEA that had allowed outside monitoring of some of its programs.
On the missing equipment, the report said investigations continue on enrichment technology “destined for Libya … (that) never arrived.” It did not say what the material was.
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the investigations focused on whether the equipment “ended up in the hands of another country or it’s sitting on a dock somewhere and was never shipped.”
“This is one of the big questions,” said the diplomat. “Where did the other stuff go?”
While the agency has not found any indications that weapons-related technology has been sold by the nuclear network to terrorists, another diplomat said nothing could be discounted until all shipments sold on the black market had been accounted for.
The report also noted Libya’s assertion that it never acted to develop a nuclear warhead based on blueprints found in its possession.
But the report suggested the agency could not test that claim until “the provider of the weapon design” and contractors who helped Libya develop its nuclear technology came forward with more information. Diplomats and experts have said the blueprints are of Chinese design and sold by the Khan network
The senior diplomat said that, without such help, the agency cannot tell if the blueprints were passed on to others interested in developing a clandestine weapons program.