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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Harsh report on Iranian nuclear program raises alarm
By Elaine Sciolino

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 International Herald Tribune [excerpt]

VIENNA: An unusually harsh report by the International Atomic Energy Agency ...
accused the Iranians of a willful lack of cooperation, particularly in answering allegations that its nuclear program might be intended more for military use than for energy generation.

The report also makes the allegation that Iran is learning to make faster, more powerful and more efficient centrifuges, the product of robust research and development that have not been fully disclosed to the agency.

That means that Iran may be producing enriched uranium - which can be used to produce electricity or to make bombs - faster than expected at the same time as it replaces its older generation of less reliable centrifuges. Some of the centrifuge components have been produced by the Iranian military, said the report, prepared by Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the agency, which is the UN nuclear monitor.

"The Iranians are certainly being confronted with some pretty strong evidence of a nuclear weapons program, and they are being petulant and defensive," said David Albright, a former weapons inspector who now runs the Institute for Science and International Security. "The report lays out what the agency knows, and it is very damning. I've never seen it laid out quite like this."

The report makes no effort to disguise the agency's frustration with Iran's lack of openness. It describes, for example, Iran's installation of new centrifuges, known as the IR-2 and IR-3 (for Iranian second and third generations), and other modifications at its site at Natanz as "significant, and as such should have been communicated to the agency."

The agency also said that during a visit in April, it was denied access to sites where centrifuge components were being made and where research on uranium enrichment was being conducted.

The report does not say how much enriched uranium the Iranians are producing, but an official connected to the agency said that since December it was slightly less than 150 kilograms, or 330 pounds, about double the amount produced during the same period about 18 months ago.