IAEA report on Iran creates mayhem
VIENNA / TEHRAN / BEIJING
The International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, office inside, in Vienna, Austria. AP photo
The UN atomic agency has "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear activites, and has "credible" information Tehran may have worked on developing nuclear weapons, a report said Tuesday.
"The agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme," the keenly awaited International Atomic Energy Agency report said.
"After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible.
"This information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." It added: "The information also indicates that prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured programme, and that some activities may still be ongoing.
"Given the concerns identified above, Iran is requested to engage substantively with the agency without delay for the purpose of providing clarifications." The Vienna-based agency said some of its more than 1,000 pages of information indicated Iran has done work "on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components." Previous IAEA assessments have centred on Iran's efforts to produce fissile material -- uranium and plutonium -- which can be put to peaceful uses like power generation, or be used to make a nuclear bomb.
But the new update focuses on Iran's alleged efforts towards putting the radioactive material in a warhead and developing missiles.
It comes amid rising speculation that Israel might launch a pre-emptive military strike in an attempt to knock out its arch foe's nuclear facilities. Iran, which says its nuclear programme is peaceful and which has been hit by four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, dismissed the new IAEA report prior to its publication, saying it was based on falsified information.
Russia and China had meanwhile pressured the IAEA not to even publish the report, diplomats said, and as a result it is unclear what action the agency's board will take when it meets next week.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Tuesday that Israeli threats to attack Iran over its nuclear programme were "extremely dangerous rhetoric" that could result in a "catastrophe".
IAEA report 'baseless,' says Iran
Iran late Tuesday dismissed as "baseless" and biased a new report by the UN nuclear watchdog claiming credible evidence that Tehran is working on developing nuclear weapons.
The material, contained in an annex to the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, "contains nothing new," Iran's envoy to the Vienna-based IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the Iranian news agency Fars.
He called it "a repetition of old claims which were proven baseless by Iran in a precise 117-page response" issued four years ago to the IAEA.
"Iran has proven that the US claims are baseless and over the past eight years no evidence of military diversion of nuclear material has emerged," he said.
He added that "the international community will regard the new accusations as politically motivated." Iran's official news agency IRNA earlier Tuesday issued a statement within minutes of the IAEA report being published referring to specific paragraphs of the document and challenging it on several fronts.
"None of the claims in the November 2011 report is new," it said, asserting that IAEA chief Yukiya Amano was merely rehashing data said to have been obtained from a laptop stolen from an Iranian official in 2004.
"Despite his claims, Amano has no updated intelligence and has published the same issues rejected repeatedly" in past Iranian communications with the IAEA, the news agency said.
"This shows that all claims that the agency has information on a military (aspect) of Iran's nuclear activities is a lie," it said.
"From a technical and professional standpoint, this is something made up by Western intelligence services and was handed over to Amano using the terminology and content of intelligence agency reports," it said.
It alleged that some of the content in the report was produced under a French advisor to Amano named Frederic Claude, who it described as a former French intelligence agent.
"Claims of having satellite images of suspicious facilities and publishing claims by Western intelligence agencies show that this report lacks any expert or professional proof and was orchestrated to maintain the United States' views," IRNA said.
IAEA report 'seriously aggravates' Iran nuclear concerns: EU
The EU said Wednesday a UN atomic watchdog warning that Iran has worked towards building nuclear warheads "seriously aggravates" existing concerns over a military dimension in Tehran.
China urges Iranian 'sincerity' after IAEA report
China on Wednesday urged Iran to show "flexibility and sincerity" after the UN atomic watchdog said it had found credible information that Tehran was working on developing nuclear weapons.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing -- a close ally of Tehran -- was still studying the IAEA report issued on Tuesday but called on Iran to "engage in serious cooperation" with the nuclear agency.
"The Iranian side should show flexibility and sincerity," Hong told reporters at a regular briefing.
Hong said the Iranian nuclear issue should be solved "through dialogue and cooperation" and urged the UN atomic watchdog to be "just and objective" and commit itself to clarifying "relevant issues".
The comments contrast with Russia's angry reaction to the report.
Moscow is also a key ally of Tehran, and said Tuesday it was "gravely disappointed and bewildered", adding the report risked damaging the chance of a renewal of nuclear talks.
Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is for exclusively civilian uses, not military ones.
The United States, meanwhile, said the report showed Iran had lied, adding it would seek to ratchet up pressure and may seek new sanctions.
But analysts said the report would not be enough to get China and Russia on board for such a move.