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Iran Makes Concession To UN Nuclear Investigation

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Nov 24, 2006
Iran has agreed to hand over records of its uranium enrichment work in a boost to UN efforts to determine whether Tehran seeks nuclear weapons, but diplomats and analysts said more cooperation is needed. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors on Thursday that Iran would finally provide the sought-after records.

Tehran had rebuffed previous IAEA demands for months, while pushing ahead with enrichment operations in defiance of a UN Security Council call for it to suspend the sensitive nuclear work.

Iran has also agreed to the IAEA's long-standing request to let its inspectors take more environmental sample swipes on equipment from a former military site at Lavizan, where enrichment work is suspected, ElBaradei said.

The Vienna-based IAEA is mired in an over three-year-old investigation into US charges that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Diplomats said Iran, under the threat of UN sanctions over its nuclear program, was trying to parry charges that it has failed to cooperate fully with the IAEA inquest.

Iran says its program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity.

"Getting the operating records is a pretty big deal," said a diplomat with technical training and who is close to the IAEA.

The diplomat said the documents would help the IAEA confirm Iran's insistence that it is only carrying out research-level uranium enrichment at a facility in Natanz in the center of the country.

Uranium is enriched by centrifuges to refine out the U-235 isotope to produce what can be fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or -- at highly refined levels -- the explosive core of atom bombs.

A second diplomat said the IAEA had reported that Iran was not allowing the agency inspectors access to "the tail results" -- the depleted uranium produced at the same time as the main product.

"If the IAEA does not receive the tail results it lacks critical data for calculating the uranium and isotope balances," the diplomat said, referring to the method of verifying the level of enrichment.

Iran says it has not enriched over five percent, a level consistent with fuel needs. Uranium for weapons use is usually enriched to more than 90 percent.

David Albright, a former nuclear inspector who now heads the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security think tank, said the new Iranian steps were "a big deal because the Iranians have been so uncooperative."

But, said Albright, that concession alone is "not going to solve the IAEA's problems."

The new information is "not going to provide confidence that the Iranians are not going to suddenly accelerate work at Natanz" or that they are "not building an undeclared centrifuge enrichment plant," Albright said.

Another analyst who follows Iran closely, Mark Fitzpatrick of London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Natanz and Lavizan were "two of many areas in which the IAEA has asked additional questions."

He called the Iranian moves "a small show of cooperation, but I don't think it gets Iran off the hook in terms of meeting the Security Council mandate for full cooperation."

ElBaradei told his board that limited cooperation by Iran had blocked the IAEA from making "further progress" on clearing up questions about Tehran's nuclear program, including the scope of its enrichment work.

The IAEA chief said the access to Natanz and the Lavizan equipment were "steps in the right direction" but that they should be followed in the immediate future by "additional measures."

The IAEA on Thursday had shelved indefinitely Iran's request for technical help in building a nuclear reactor that the United States fears could provide plutonium for weapons.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran would still press on with its heavy-water reactor in Arak, which Tehran says is to produce medical isotopes.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Britain's Finance Minister Launches Nuclear Threat Warning
London (AFP) Nov 25, 2006
Finance minister Gordon Brown warned Saturday against unilateral British nuclear disarmament in a world where rogue states could acquire nuclear weapons. The chancellor of the exchequer, widely expected to take over as prime minister from Tony Blair next year, waded into the debate over replacing Britain's submarine-based Trident nuclear weapons system.

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