Foreign Experts Brought Iran to Threshold of Nuclear Capability, IAEA Reports

Details from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report regarding the Iranian nuclear program continue to leak. Intelligence provided to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency shows that Iran has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon.

New intelligence the UN atomic agency plans to release on alleged nuclear weapons work by Iran is fabricated, the Iranian foreign minister said Saturday. Photo: United Against Nuclear Iran/Flickr

Intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings, The Washington Post reported.

According to the intelligence, Iran appears to have received crucial technical assistance from foreign experts, the newspaper reported, citing Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings by the IAEA.

Intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings.

Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction, the officials and experts said.Crucial technology linked to experts in Pakistan and North Korea also helped propel Iran to the threshold of nuclear capability, they added.

The reactor building of Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. Photo: IAEA/Flickr

The U.N. nuclear watchdog is due to release a report this week laying out its findings on Iran’s efforts to obtain sensitive nuclear technology. Fears that Iran could quickly build an atomic bomb if it chooses to has fueled anti-Iran rhetoric and new threats of military strikes.

Some U.S. arms-control groups have cautioned against what they fear could be an overreaction to the report, saying there is still time to persuade Iran to change its behavior.

“The program never really stopped,” said Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. The institute performs widely respected independent analyses of nuclear programs in countries around the world, often drawing from IAEA data.

“After 2003, money was made available for research in areas that sure look like nuclear weapons work but were hidden within civilian institutions,” Albright said.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi accused the IAEA of giving in to U.S. pressure to level accusations against Iran, which insists its nuclear program is only for peaceful aims like energy production.

“Iran has already responded to the alleged studies in 117 pages. We’ve said time and again that these are forgeries similar to faked notes,” Salehi told a news conference in Tehran.

Salehi, Iran’s former nuclear chief, asserted that allegations proven false in the past are being reproduced.

“The Americans raised documents like this in the past: the Niger scandal,” he said, referring to claims — based on a forgery — that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had sought uranium from Niger.

“The documents were used as a pretext to invade Iraq,” Salehi said. “After killing tens of thousands of innocent people, it was discovered that it was a forged document.”

Salehi accused the IAEA of violating its neutrality and siding with U.S. intelligence claims under new agency chief Yukiya Amano, saying he is using information that his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the agency could not authenticate independently.

“The IAEA should not do things under pressure. … Iran’s nuclear issue is not a technical or legal issue. It’s a totally political case,” Salehi said.

Iran has previously claimed that reports on alleged nuclear weapons activities were based on false information provided by a “few arrogant countries,” a phrase authorities in Iran use to refer to the United States and its allies.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinajed on Sunday issued his first response to reports of a possible Israeli strike on Iran and talk of fresh sanctions.

The United States fears Iran’s growing military power because it is now able to compete with Israel and the West, he said. Iran is increasing in capability and advancement and therefore we are able to compete with Israel and the West and especially the United States,” Ahamdinajed added.

“It is Israel that has about 300 nuclear warheads. Iran is only keen to have nuclear capability for peaceful means,” he added. [via Washington Post]

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