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. Iranian nuclear probe deadlocked, says IAEA
VIENNA, Nov 19 (AFP) Nov 19, 2008
The International Atomic Energy Agency, despite six years of intensive investigation, is no closer to determining whether Iran's disputed nuclear drive is entirely peaceful as Tehran claims, the watchdog said in a new report Wednesday.

Furthermore, the Islamic republic was continuing to defy UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment -- a process used to make both nuclear fuel and the fissile material for an atom bomb -- the IAEA said.

"Regrettably, as a result of the lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the alleged studies and other associated key remaining isuses of serious concern, the agency has not been able to make substantive progress on these issues," said the restricted report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The so-called "alleged studies" refer to documents collected from a wide range of intelligence sources that appear to suggest Iran may have been trying to develop a nuclear warhead, convert uranium and test high explosives and a missile re-entry vehicle.

Iran has repeatedly dismissed the allegations as "baseless" and the evidence used to back up the charges as "fabricated," but has done little so far to disprove them.

In the latest report, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said that for progress to be made, Iran must "clarify the extent to which information contained in the relevant documentation is factually correct and where, in its view, such information may have been modified or relates to non-nuclear purposes.

"Iran needs to provide the agency with substantive information to support its statements and provide access to relevant documentation and individuals in this regard," ElBaradei said.

"Unless Iran provides such transparency... the agency will not be able to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran."

"It's gridlock," said a senior UN official. "There's been no progress or no communication whatsoever on possible military dimension."

Indeed, the situation was actually worse than when the IAEA published its last report on Iran in September, because then, at least, the two sides had been talking, the official said.

The IAEA also complained that Iran was refusing to suspend uranium enrichment as repeatedly demanded by the United Nations Security Council in New York.

"Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued... the installation of new cascades and the operation of new generation centrifuges for test purposes."

Officials close to the IAEA said that, as of November 7, around 3,800 uranium gas enriching centrifuges were and up running at Iran's plant in Natanz and a further 2,200 were close to becoming operational.

That was more or less the same level as at the time of the IAEA's last report in September, the official said.

"Based on daily accounting records, Iran has produced approximately 630 kilogrammes" (1,389 pounds) of low-enriched uranium or LEU, it said.

It would need 1,700 kilogrammes to convert into high-enriched uranium (HEU) for use in an atom bomb.

"All nuclear material at (the Natanz plant), as well as all installed cascades, remain under Agency containment and surveillance," the IAEA insisted.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran's nuclear activities for six years now, but has reached an impasse over the so-called alleged studies.

The onus was on Iran, the official close to the IAEA said.

"The issues are there, ready to be addressed. There's no point in us writing to them every week" and asking the same questions, he said.

"We've given a proposal about how to proceed and now we're waiting for a response."

The IAEA's latest report on Iran was circulated to the 35-member board of governors on Wednesday ahead of its traditional November meeting next week.

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