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. West turns up heat on Iran over alleged nuclear arms work
VIENNA, Sept 24 (AFP) Sep 24, 2008
Western countries hit out at Iran here on Wednesday over its refusal to disprove allegations of past nuclear weapons work and for pursuing uranium enrichment in defiance of UN demands.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on its six-year investigation into Tehran's contested nuclear drive "presents a decidedly bleak picture," German ambassador Ruediger Luedeking told a closed-door session of the IAEA's 35-member board.

"Iran continues to defy the requests of the international community. It continues to disregard its legally binding obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions as well as the requirements placed upon it by the board of governors," Luedeking said, speaking on behalf of the so-called EU-3 of France, Germany and Britain.

The UN Security Council has slapped three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which can be used to make the fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

Indeed, Iran has recently installed additional cascades of uranium-enriching centrifuges, bringing the number up and running to close to 4,000, and was testing more advanced centrifuges as well.

"Far from inspiring confidence, Iran's violations of obligations undermines confidence and deepens suspicions," Luedeking said.

Furthermore, since the IAEA's last report in May, "Iran has failed to offer the agency any degree of transparency or cooperation. This further adds to the doubts relating to the nature of Iran's nuclear programme," he continued.

In a new report released earlier this month, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei accused Iran of stalling his agency's six-year investigation, denying access to sites and documentation that could reveal the true nature of its contested nuclear drive.

The main sticking point between Iran and the IAEA at the moment are the so-called "alleged studies", referring to documentation found on a laptop in Iran which suggest Tehran may have been trying to develop a nuclear warhead, convert uranium and test high explosives and a missile re-entry vehicle.

Iran has consistently dismissed the allegations as "baseless" and the documentation used to back them up as "fabricated".

But the IAEA insists the onus is on Iran to disprove the allegations.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, complained that Iran had not been allowed to see any of the documentation supposedly backing up the allegations.

"How come we can question a country without giving authentic documents? A member state is accused by another member state, but that member state has not given any documents or evidence," he told reporters.

"We have been too good, too transparent and too cooperative," he said.

Iran had answered all of the IAEA's outstanding questions about its nuclear activities, Soltanieh said.

"We have done our job. As far as we are concerned, the alleged study issue is concluded and closed," he said.

"The Iranian nation will never, at any price, give up its nuclear activities," Soltanieh said.

French ambassador Francois-Xavier Deniau, speaking on behalf of the 27-country EU, was also sharply critical of Iran, "deploring" its lack of transparency.

"The fact that there hasn't been any progress in understanding the nature of Iran's nuclear programme is not due to the complexity or sensitive nature of the activities, but to Iran's refusal to authorise access to individuals, sites and the documents requested," Deniau said.

The fact that Iran was refusing both to suspend enrichment and to clear up the allegations of weaponisation studies was "alarming," Deniau said, "because it brings us closer to the moment where Iran will have the fissile materials needed for a weapon, if it chose to increase their degree of enrichment."

The United States' envoy, Gregory Schulte, said: "Some have described the current situation as gridlock. It is in fact 'roadblock', a whole series of them erected by Iran."

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