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Iran says UN agency's report shows Tehran not trying to make nuclear weapons

2006-02-28 22:25:24

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Iran says UN agency's report shows Tehran not trying to make nuclear weapons
05:29:43 EST Feb 28, 2006

TOKYO (AP) - A report by the UN nuclear watchdog agency shows there is no proof Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday in Japan.

"They could not find evidence which shows that Iran has diverted from its peaceful purposes of nuclear activities in Iran," said Manouchehr Mottaki, who was in Tokyo to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

A confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report made available to The Associated Press on Monday said that a more than three-year probe has not revealed "any diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

But it also said that because of lack of sufficient co-operation from the Iranian side, the agency remains unable "to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran." The report suggested that unless Iran drastically increases its co-operation, the IAEA would not be able to establish whether past clandestine activities were focused on making nuclear arms.

The report, prepared by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei for a March 6 meeting of the agency's 35-country board of governors, could help determine what action the UN Security Council will take against Iran, which says its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes.

The IAEA decided at a Feb. 4 meeting to report Tehran to the council over concerns it might be seeking nuclear arms. But further action was deferred until the end of next week's meeting at the insistence of veto-wielding council members Russia and China, which have close economic and political ties with Iran.

Mottaki said Iran had a right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and is committed not to build nuclear weapons.

"Iran also, like Japan, enjoys its right to have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," Mottaki told reporters after talks with Koizumi. "We are against nuclear weapons."

However, the IAEA report said Iran plans to start setting up thousands of uranium enriching centrifuges this year even as it negotiates with Russia on scrapping such domestic activity, which is a possible pathway to nuclear arms.

Russia dampened hopes of a deal with Iran on Monday, saying Tehran must first freeze its domestic uranium enrichment, something Iran has refused to do. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told the Interfax news agency he expected talks with Iran to resume in the coming days.

The Russian offer to host Iran's uranium enrichment program has been backed by the United States and the European Union as a way to provide more guarantees that Tehran's atomic program cannot be diverted to build weapons.

But the IAEA report showed Iran pressing ahead with enrichment at home by going from testing a lone centrifuge - a machine that spins uranium gas into enriched uranium - to introducing the gas into 10 centrifuges and beginning enrichment between Feb. 11 and Feb 15.

Furthermore, said the report, Iran began final maintenance of an additional 20 centrifuges a week ago, reflecting determination to further expand enrichment.

That would leave Iran still far short of the thousands of centrifuges it needs to enrich substantial amounts of uranium. Still, it reflected the country's plans to forge ahead with domestic enrichment even as it talks with Moscow.

And just a few months down the road, "commencement of the installation of the first 3,000 . . . (centrifuges) is planned for the fourth quarter of 2006," said the report.

Experts estimate that Iran already has enough black-market components in storage to build the 1,500 operating centrifuges it would need to make the 20 kilograms of highly enriched uranium needed for one crude weapon.

© The Canadian Press, 2006

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