UN report fuels concerns over nuclear weapons


Iran has stepped up its production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the last few months, the UN nuclear agency said last night. Its confidential report will feed concerns about how quickly the Islamic republic could produce an atomic bomb.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also said Iran had failed to explain convincingly what had happened to a quantity of missing uranium metal. Diplomats say the amount unaccounted for is large enough to be used for experiments in arming a nuclear missile.

Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear weapons and says its activities are meant either to generate energy or to be used for research. So far, no evidence has been found that shows Iran is building a nuclear weapon.

The report also confirmed that two IAEA missions to Tehran in less than a month had failed to persuade Iran to assist the agency as it investigates suspicions that the country has been secretly working on aspects of a nuclear weapons programme.

The report said the agency continues to have "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme."

The report was issued to the IAEA's 35-nation board and the UN Security Council as the latest update on what the agency knows or suspects about Iran's nuclear programme.

The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said yesterday that he believes some nations are using fears that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons as a pretext to seek to "change the regime".