Iran set up committee to conceal nuclear program: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) Mar 28, 2004
Iran has set up a secret government committee overseeing efforts to conceal key elements of the country's nuclear program from international inspectors, The Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site Saturday.

Citing unnamed Western diplomats and an intelligence report, the newspaper said that if the cover-up is confirmed, it would bolster the US assertion that Iran is trying to hide a secret nuclear weapons program.

The committee was set up late last year to coordinate the concealment efforts after international inspectors uncovered evidence that the Islamic Republic had tried to hide aspects of its nuclear program, including secret research on advanced centrifuges that can produce weapons-grade uranium, according to the diplomats quoted in the Times report.

Its most pressing tasks include trying to hide nuclear evidence at nearly 300 locations around the country, said the paper, citing a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The panel is said to be composed mainly of senior officials of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, who report to high-ranking government officials.

A group of inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Iran on Saturday.

The IAEA has been investigating since February 2003 whether Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful, or devoted to secretly developing atomic weapons, as the United States alleges.

The body is to report its findings at a meeting in Vienna in June

A US government official said the United States had received the intelligence report, which was prepared by a country other than the United States, within the last month and believes it to be credible, The Times said.

A spokesman for the US Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the account.