Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Polonium

Iran is caught in another lie:

Iran produced and experimented with polonium -- used in the timing of nuclear explosions -- some time ago, but says it was not used for such purposes, The Washington Post said Tuesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will include Iran's experimentation with polonium in a report to be submitted this week at the United Nations, two people familiar with the report told the daily.

Iran has submitted to IAEA inspections to show the world it does not have nuclear weapons ambitions, but its dabbling with polonium coupled with the IAEA's discovery of components for an advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuge have raised serious doubts about Tehran's forthrightness.

Iran has acknowledged the experiments with polonium but has offered an explanation involving another of polonium's possible uses, including power generation.

The IAEA has left the issue "hanging there," one person familiar with the matter told the Post.

He said the experiments took place "some time ago," the daily added.

In addition, International Atomic Energy Agency has issued a new report regarding Iran's nuclear program:

In a confidential report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had not disclosed the full range of its nuclear activities as it said it had in October. Inspectors have found evidence of previously undisclosed nuclear experiments and secret work on advanced centrifuge machines.

The most serious concerns, the report said, surrounded the origin of traces of highly enriched uranium found at two locations and indications that larger quantities of the fissile material had been removed from one of the sites.

The presence of significant amounts of enriched uranium would be a strong indicator of experiments aimed at developing an atomic weapon, something Iran has denied doing.

In the report, the IAEA praised Tehran for cooperating in some areas, including opening nuclear-related sites on military bases to inspectors and promising to stop assembling centrifuge machines as part of a commitment to suspend its enrichment of uranium.

The IAEA report also confirmed publicly for the first time that Iran and Libya received substantial advanced technology for enriching uranium from the same black-market network of foreign sources.

The report did not identify the origins of the equipment and sensitive designs, but diplomats familiar with its findings said the global network operated by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan provided most of the technology to both countries.

[...]

The report, the agency's fourth since June, is "definitely the most hard-hitting," with information "that frankly had to be forced out of the Iranians," the U.S. official said. Iran said its October declaration to the IAEA of its nuclear capabilities, the official said, "was correct and complete, but this information makes it clear that it was neither."

Libya voluntarily terminated its program in December and acknowledged that it had tried to build a nuclear weapon for more than 20 years.

Khan confessed this month to providing nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya as well as North Korea. Although Pakistan has shared some information about the network with the United States and the IAEA, the report indicated that Islamabad had not yet been completely forthcoming.

Iran, for its part, is concerned about how much information Pakistan has shared with the international agency.

Mohammed Reza Aref, first vice president of Iran, left for Pakistan on Tuesday on what a foreign intelligence agency said was an attempt to discover how much of Khan's information the Pakistanis had disclosed.

"The Iranians need to know what ammunition has been provided to their rivals regarding their nuclear weapons program and their efforts to conceal it," said a written analysis prepared by the intelligence agency that was provided to The Times.

Just for good measure, Iran's "parliament" recently stated that " there would be no thaw in relations with the U.S."

Conservatives taking control of Iran's parliament offered a view Tuesday of what might lie ahead: sharp rhetoric toward the United States, a slowdown in the pace of social change and a stiff rebuff of Western concerns that Friday's elections marked a setback for democracy.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, the conservatives provided no specifics on economic policy, or whether they would reduce limited social freedoms enacted in recent years.

Conservative forces won at least 149 seats in the 290-seat parliament, with the ballot count continuing.

The leader of the main conservative coalition, the Developers of Islamic Iran, told reporters there would be no thaw in relations with the U.S. until Washington took the first step and recognized Iran's Islamic Revolution.

"We think that while America doesn't believe in the Islamic Revolution and doesn't accept it and doesn't hear the main message of Iran, which is independence, there will be no step [toward dialogue] taking place," said coalition leader Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel.


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