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UN nuclear watchdog set to discuss Iranian crisis

(AFP) The United Nations atomic watchdog agency was set to hear a report on Iran Wednesday that could bring Tehran one step closer to a third round of UN sanctions against its nuclear programme. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei is to present a report which states that Iran is expanding uranium enrichment work, the process that makes fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but that can also produce atom bomb material. The IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors has been meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna since Monday in a regular meeting that also covers budget and other matters. Diplomats told AFP Tuesday that the IAEA believes Iran could have 8,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by December, a significant rise in nuclear capability likely to fuel fears that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons. “The concern is that they will have a sensitive number of centrifuges without having resolved the question marks surrounding the history of Iran’s programme,” a diplomat close to the IAEA said. “It becomes more sensitive the more they have. It becomes a greater proliferation concern,” the diplomat told AFP. The diplomat said ElBaradei has been telling political leaders in private conversations that Iran was making “steady progress” in uranium enrichment and shows no sign of slowing down. ElBaradei had said on the opening day Monday of this week’s meeting that the “brewing confrontation” with Iran over its atomic ambitions “must be defused.” ElBaradei said “dialogue and diplomacy are ultimately the only way to achieve the negotiated solution foreseen in the relevant Security Council resolutions.” The UN Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions to get Iran to completely halt uranium enrichment and to provide information about suspect nuclear activities. The IAEA has after more than four years of investigation failed to resolve key questions about Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran vehemently denies US accusations that it seeks nuclear weapons, saying it wants only to generate electricity. Washington says it is looking for a diplomatic solution but has not ruled out military action. The diplomat said Iran was increasing its enrichment capability without the IAEA having the inspection regime in place that is needed to monitor Tehran’s atomic work. Iran had, as of May 13, over 1,300 centrifuges enriching uranium at the underground, heavily bunkered facility in Natanz, according to ElBaradei. Iran could reach its goal of industrial scale production with 3,000 centrifuges running by the end of June, a senior official close to the IAEA said. That number could make enough enriched uranium for a bomb in less than a year, experts say. A second diplomat close to the IAEA said ElBaradei’s estimate of Iran obtaining 8,000 centrifuges was based on “the technical assessment of his inspectors” and so was sound. But Gary Samore, a New-York-based non-proliferation analyst, struck a note of caution. He told AFP that “whatever the number of centrifuges Iran is running, the question is performance and in particular whether the machines are capable of operating at high velocities for a long period of time without a high failure rate.” Samore said that “everybody, including our friends in Israel, seems to be pretty relaxed and feel that what Iran has working is not very significant because of the question of performance.” ElBaradei has drawn US ire for saying that the West should accept that Iran has acquired the knowledge to enrich and so it is unrealistic to expect it to halt this work entirely. The United States expressed “grave concern” Tuesday over Iran’s defiance in ramping up its nuclear capability. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Iran’s failure “to change course is only going to result in greater isolation” and more punitive sanctions.

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June 13, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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