Friday, September 18, 2009

IAEA report: I.R. Iran Worked on Nuclear Warhead

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The UN nuclear inspection agency believes that Iran has "sufficient information" to make a nuclear weapon and had "probably tested" a key component, it was reported last night. The Associated Press said it had obtained a "secret annexe" to a report on Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which suggests that the agency's experts were more convinced Iran had been trying to make a bomb than its outgoing director, Mohamed ElBaradei, had admitted. ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prizewinner, who leaves his post at the end of November, has said there is "no concrete evidence" the Iranians had worked on building a warhead. The agency repeated that position last night, in response to the AP report saying there was no "concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapons programme in Iran", and that "all relevant information and assessments" are presented to the IAEA member states.

The statement did not comment on the authenticity of the AP document. ElBaradei has angrily rejected French and Israeli claims that he has withheld important evidence of Iran's nuclear weapons work. In the document quoted by AP, his inspectors report: "The agency… assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device based on HEU [highly enriched uranium] as the fission fuel." Furthermore the annexe said Iranian scientists had engaged in "probable testing" of explosives arranged in a hemisphere, which is how an implosion type of nuclear warhead is triggered. There was also evidence, the report says, that Iran had worked on developing a chamber to carry a warhead on top of one of its missiles, "that is quite likely to be nuclear".

The annexe, entitled Possible Military Dimension of Iran's Nuclear Program, gives details of a top-level meeting in 1984 in which Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, then president now supreme leader, appears to give the green light for building a bomb, saying: "A nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God's soldiers." Intelligence agencies in the US, Britain, France and Germany all believe that Iran has worked on developing a nuclear warhead, but they differ on how long that work went on and whether it is still continuing. A US national intelligence estimate two years ago, said development work on a warhead ended in 2003, although British officials have questioned that assessment. The AP report does not make it clear when or whether the IAEA inspectors believe warhead work finished.