VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran seems to have carried out nuclear-related work with possible military links until recently, the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said Monday, citing new information adding to concerns about Tehran’s activities.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made clear in a speech to the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board his growing frustration at the Islamic state’s failure to answer agency queries about its nuclear program.
His remarks are likely to be welcomed by Western powers as a sign that he is gradually ratcheting up the pressure on Iran.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop an atomic weapons capability. Iran rejects the accusation, saying its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.
For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone so it can take a nuclear warhead.
Western diplomats believe Amano is in effect warning Tehran to cooperate or face a possible assessment by the IAEA on the likelihood it has conducted nuclear activity with possible military aspects.
Such an assessment could lend weight to any renewed Western push to tighten sanctions on the major oil producer.
Amano said the U.N. agency had received “further information related to possible past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities that seem to point to the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”
He later told a news conference, without disclosing the source of the information: “The activities in Iran related to the possible military dimension seem to have been continued until quite recently.”
Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, activity which can have both civilian and military uses, has drawn four rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006.
The Japanese IAEA chief has taken a blunter approach than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei towards the Islamic state.
Amano said he had written last month to the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, “reiterating the agency’s concerns about the existence of possible military dimensions.”
He had also asked for Iran to “provide prompt access” to locations, equipment, documentation and officials to help resolve the agency’s queries.
Amano made clear that Iran’s response had not been satisfactory, saying he had sent a new letter to Abbasi-Davani on June 3 “in which I reiterated the agency’s requests to Iran.”
In his May 26 letter to Amano, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters Friday, Abbasi-Davani reiterated Iran’s position that the allegations were fabricated, and said U.N. sanctions resolutions against the country were “illegal and unacceptable.”
The IAEA, tasked with ensuring that nuclear technology is not diverted for military aims, says Iran has not engaged with the agency in substance on the issue of possible military aspects to Iran’s nuclear program since mid-2008.
Iran was “not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,” Amano said.
“I urge Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of all relevant obligations in order to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program,” he said.
Editing by Andrew Roche