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Iran Samples Show Enriched Uranium-Diplomats

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  • Josh Pollack
    Yahoo! News July 18, 2003 Iran Samples Show Enriched Uranium-Diplomats By Louis Charbonneau
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 18, 2003
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      Yahoo! News
      July 18, 2003
      Iran Samples Show Enriched Uranium-Diplomats
      By Louis Charbonneau

      http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030718/wl_nm/iran_nuclear_dc_6

      VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. inspectors have found enriched uranium in environmental samples taken in Iran, which could mean Tehran has been purifying uranium without informing the U.N. nuclear watchdog, diplomats said.

      The diplomats, who asked not to be named, said initial analysis showed enrichment levels possibly consistent with an attempt to make weapons-grade material and high enough to cause concern at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

      Iran said later on Friday that the IAEA had not informed it about any findings.

      "The International Atomic Energy Agency has not told Iran about this issue," Khalil Mousavi, spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told Reuters. "As soon as the agency takes a stance on this, then we will announce our stance," he said.

      If Iran, dubbed part of an "axis of evil" by Washington, has been enriching uranium without telling the IAEA, this would deepen U.S. suspicions that its nuclear ambitions go beyond its stated aim of using nuclear energy only to generate electricity.

      However, the diplomats said the mere presence of enriched uranium in the samples was not solid proof Iran had done the enrichment itself. Contamination was another possibility, though how it had arisen would have to be explained to the IAEA.

      The IAEA declined to confirm or deny the statements of the diplomats, though an agency spokeswoman said IAEA inspectors have been taking samples in Iran.

      "The results of environmental sample analyzes are being reviewed at the agency and we expect to take more samples over the next few weeks," Melissa Fleming said. "Only the IAEA will be in a position to judge the significance of the analysis results.

      "At this point, we are still in the middle of a complex inspection process in Iran, in which we are investigating a number of unresolved issues," she added.

      Iran insists it has no interest in building nuclear weapons, as Washington charges, but has resisted international calls for it to accept tougher inspections of its nuclear program.

      It was not clear at which of Iran's nuclear facilities the samples had been taken, nor was it clear whether the IAEA had informed the Iranian government of its initial findings.

      CENTRIFUGE TESTS?

      At least one senior Western diplomat predicted in June that environmental samples taken by the IAEA would confirm suspicions that Iran continues to hide aspects of its nuclear program -- including live tests of enrichment centrifuges.

      Iran has repeatedly denied that it has tested its centrifuges with nuclear material without informing the IAEA,

      But diplomats say it makes no sense for Iran to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build big uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz without having tested their centrifuges.

      Enrichment is a process which purifies uranium to make it useable in nuclear fuel -- or nuclear weapons.

      The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran has signed, permits uranium enrichment for civilian purposes. However, the United Nations must be informed and the process must be subject to IAEA safeguards inspections.

      In June, the IAEA board of governors chided Iran for failing to report many aspects of its nuclear program and asked for more information on research and development in Iran's uranium enrichment program.

      The IAEA is expected to report on the results of its most recent inspections in Iran when the board meets on September 8.
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