Pakistan meets with UN nuclear agency on Iranian uranium contamination
VIENNA (AFP) Aug 22, 2005
UN atomic agency inspectors and Pakistani technicians met in Vienna Monday to review the agency's findings that weapons-grade uranium particles found in Iran were from smuggled Pakistani centrifuge parts rather than enrichment work by Iran, a Pakistani source said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) findings back Iran's claims that it was not involved in enrichment work that the United States says would show that the Islamic Republic is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.
The IAEA inspectors and the Pakistanis are "discussing matters pertaining to the Iranian contamination issue," the source, who is close to the Vienna-based IAEA and asked not to named due to the sensitivity of the talks, told AFP.
The source said from three to five technical people have come from Pakistan for the talks which were taking place Monday and were to continue this week as part of Islamabad's "ongoing cooperation with the IAEA."
They are "looking at data," the source said.
Pakistan had in May sent centrifuge parts to IAEA to enable it to compare microscopic traces of uranium on them with that found on identical equipment in Iran.
The IAEA has concluded that "the highly enriched uranium appears to emanate from Pakistan," from the imported equipment as Iran had claimed and not from Iranian enrichment work, a Western diplomat close to the IAEA told AFP last Friday.
Enriched uranium, made by passing a uranium gas through a series, or cascade, of centrifuge machines, can be fuel for civilian nuclear power reactors or, in highly refined form, the raw material for atom bombs.
The father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has admitted to running an international nuclear black market ring that supplied Iran with atomic technology and parts.
The IAEA has since February 2003 been investigating US charges that Iran, which says its nuclear program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity, has a covert weapons program.
The enriched uranium contamination issue is a main sticking point in the investigation, although there are other unresolved issues.
The diplomat said the talks with the Pakistanis were part of a review of the IAEA findings that will later in the month also involve independent experts, ahead of a report on Iran to be filed September 3 to the agency's 35-nation board of governors.
"I hope this will be the end of the matter as far as Pakistan is concerned," the Pakistani source said.
Pakistan in May insisted that the centrifuge parts it sent to the IAEA remained technically under its control and would be brought back home by Pakistani experts. The source confirmed that the parts would be returned to Pakistan "eventually."
"They belong to us," the source said about the components, also saying that Pakistani technicians were present during the IAEA analysis of the equipment.
A diplomat told AFP that Pakistan wanted to make sure that information would not leak outside the IAEA about Pakistan's nuclear program.
IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozedecky refused to comment on details but said: "The corroboration process continues and we hope to report on the contamination issue in the September report" to the IAEA board of governors.
The IAEA has urged Iran to re-suspend nuclear fuel work it restarted this month so that it can resume talks with the European Union on guaranteeing that its atomic program is peaceful.
If Iran does not comply, the EU has threatened to ask the IAEA to bring Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
A diplomat said the results of tests comparing the Pakistani equipment with that in Iran for traces of low enriched uranium (LEU), which is below weapons-grade, were "murky" and that the "LEU issue will probably never be solved."
LEU is uranium that is enriched to below 20 percent of the key isotope uranium 235 and which is not considered weapons-grade.
But LEU can relatively easily be enriched up to high levels.
Another diplomat said the inability to resolve the LEU question meant that the investigation's results "don't prove Iran's story is true. They prove it is plausible."All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.