Top Iranian official plays down new IAEA nuclear revelations
TEHRAN (AFP) Jun 02, 2004
Iran's clerical regime on Wednesday insisted it was not trying to secretly develop nuclear weapons, after new revelations from the UN nuclear watchdog bolstered suspicions over the Islamic republic's shadowy atomic energy programme.

"We have no secret nuclear activities," Iran's top national security official, Hassan Rowhani, told a press conference following a report by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

He went as far as to assert that "Iran's nuclear dossier is on the way to being sorted out and there is nothing very important that is pending."

According to ElBaradei's report, United Nations nuclear inspectors have found more traces in Iran of highly enriched uranium that could be bomb-grade. Iran was also found not to be fully respecting a suspension of activities related to uranium enrichment.

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors is to discuss Iran's case on June

While ElBaradei told a NATO meeting in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Tuesday that there was at this time "no evidence that the Iranian program has some military dimension", he said "the jury is still out".

"The only issue that is outstanding is that of the... contamination," Rowhani said, repeating Iran's contention that the traces came into the country on equipment bought on an international black market and were not produced locally.

"We ask the agency to carry out more inspections and take more environmental samples to prove that we are in the right and that this contamination came in on imported equipment," he added.

The latest in a string of IAEA reports -- most of which have only served to raise more questions -- led the United States to renew its accusation that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, and not simply generate atomic energy as Tehran insists.

The United States has called for the IAEA, which has been investigating the Iranian program since February 2003 after being alerted to it in August 2002, to refer the Islamic Republic to the UN Security Council for possible international sanctions.

But Rowhani, who heads Iran's Supreme National Security Council and is charged with overseeing Iran's negotiations on the nuclear issue, hit back by charging that ElBaradei's report contained "certain faults and certain shortcomings".

"The agency has gone into questions that do not concern it. We will respond to them, but when we read the report we see that there are only minor points and nothing important," he said.

ElBaradei also criticised Iran for continuing centrifuge production even though officials here had announced that such work had been stopped as of April 9 as a confidence-building measure with the international community.

But Rowhani also said this production would continue for the time being. This, he claimed, was because authorities had yet to reach a compensation agreement with three private sector production facilities involved in making parts.

"As long as there is no accord on compensation for them stopping production, production will continue," he said, without explaining how Iran's small private sector was involved in such sensitive work or how the regime was unable to enforce its will.