Iran 'blocking UN probe into nuclear programme'

Diplomatic Editor,Anne Penketh
Tuesday 16 September 2008 00:00
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UN efforts to get to the bottom of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme have reached a dead end because of Tehran's failure to co-operate with inspectors investigating its past activities, the United Nations nuclear agency has reported.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, also said in his report that Iran was still defying the UN by continuing to enrich uranium.

Britain and the US responded by warning that they would push for expanded sanctions against Iran in the coming weeks. Foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, are to discuss Iran's non-compliance at a meeting in New York next week. However, Russia, with which relations have been tense after the Georgia war, and China, may resist further punitive economic measures.

Mr ElBaradei said there remained "serious concern" about the allegations concerning the military dimension of Iran's nuclear programme. He revealed that "foreign expertise" may have been involved in Iranian high explosives testing with alleged nuclear military purposes. Iran has denied conducting any such activities.

A senior UN official said the foreigners were not connected to the A Q Khan illicit nuclear network, which has been wound up, but added that the UN investigation aimed to discover whether a separate network had been operating.

The official said that, regarding the alleged past weapons activities, "Iran has not been forthcoming in replying to our questions. We seem to be at a dead end there".

Regarding Iran's uranium enrichment activities, the IAEA calculated that Iran had stockpiled 480kg of low enriched uranium which can be used as reactor fuel. It would take 1,700kg to convert into the highly enriched uranium required for a bomb.

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