Iran Reveals (Some) Nuke Details

Iranian flag overlaid with fallout symbol. nukes nuclear weapons Iran
AP
Iran on Thursday turned over to the U.N. nuclear agency documents on its past atomic energy activities, but the dossier apparently did not include the origin of traces of weapons-grade uranium found in the country.

"We have submitted a report fully disclosing all our past activities in the nuclear field," Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters.

Neither Salehi nor IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei would elaborate on the contents of the package of documents, which Iran handed over ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.

ElBaradei said he expected the information to answer all outstanding questions about Iran's nuclear activities. "The debate was for Iran to come with full disclosure," he said.

However, Salehi indicated that the origin of traces of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium found in at least two different sites inside the country was not in the package.

Diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press earlier this week that Iran would provide the origin of the traces, which ElBaradei has called the most troubling aspect of Iran's nuclear activities.

"How can you give the origin of the species if you have taken it from the intermediaries on the foreign market?" Salehi said.

Iran insists the contamination, found in environmental samples taken by agency experts, was imported on equipment it uses for peaceful nuclear purposes. For months, it has resisted IAEA requests that it name the country of origin for the equipment so that experts can try and match isotope samples.

If the traces found inside Iran do not correspond to samples from whatever country it eventually might name as the exporter of the equipment, then Iran would be hard put to deny assertions by the United States and its allies that it had produced its own highly enriched uranium for a weapons program.

Iran previously had insisted it would continue enriching uranium to non-weapons levels as part of a program it says is aimed only at producing electricity.

The U.N. nuclear agency's board of governors meets on Nov. 20. If it finds that suspicions remain about a possible weapons program, it could find Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That would mean U.N. Security Council involvement and possible international sanctions.

On Tuesday, Iran told the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France that they would suspend uranium enrichment and sign a protocol allowing spot checks of its nuclear programs.

There was no indication of when Iran would suspend uranium enrichment or sign the additional protocol. Iran has allowed IAEA inspectors to view some sites, including at least one military facility, but for weeks has hesitated at making a full commitment to the IAEA demands.

The agreement giving U.N. inspectors unrestricted access to Iran's nuclear facilities allows the country to maintain its "national dignity," an Iranian government official said Thursday.

Massoumeh Ebtekar, one of Iran's six vice presidents, said on a visit to Vienna that the agreement was "a sign of our sincere commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear technologies."

"It's a sign of commitment to our national dignity and our right to use these technologies in a peaceful manner," Ebtekar added, speaking to reporters after meeting with Austrian President Thomas Klestil.

She said the Iranian government views the agreement as "totally binding" and described it as "a sign of our willingness to cooperate and to work with the IAEA."

U.S. officials are skeptical about Iran's promise to comply with IAEA demands and the approach the Europeans took to secure Iran's cooperation.

Britain, France and Germany apparently held out the prospect of civilian nuclear assistance for Iran if it proved it had no military nuclear program.

"What's important is implementation, and that's what we're looking for," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Wednesday. That echoed Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said, "We want to see what kind of performance we get."

The White House, meanwhile, has indicated it would not support civilian nuclear aid to Tehran. "We've previously expressed our concerns about Iran's claims that it needs a nuclear energy program," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Tuesday.