Iran dismisses bomb studies intelligence as forged

VIENNA Sat Sep 5, 2009 10:14am EDT

An Iranian soldier stands guard inside the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, 322km (200 miles) south of Iran's capital Tehran March 9, 2006. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

An Iranian soldier stands guard inside the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, 322km (200 miles) south of Iran's capital Tehran March 9, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Raheb Homavandi

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VIENNA (Reuters) - A senior Iranian official has accused the United States of feeding "forged" intelligence to the U.N. nuclear watchdog that says Iran had studied ways to make atomic bombs.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has lent some weight to Western intelligence reports which imply Tehran secretly combined uranium processing, airborne high-explosive tests and work to remodel a missile cone in a way that would fit a nuclear warhead.

While the IAEA has said it does not have concrete proof of a weapons agenda, it urged Tehran in an August 28 report to resolve the suspicions rather than dismiss information as a fabrication.

But Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the IAEA in a letter seen by Reuters that the agency had not provided genuine documents on the alleged studies and the matter was "closed."

"The government of the United States has not handed over original documents to the agency since it does not in fact have any authenticated document and all it has are forged documents," Soltanieh wrote in a letter to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

"The alleged studies are politically motivated and baseless allegations."

Western powers suspect Tehran of pursuing the means to produce atomic bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear fuel program, a charge which Iran denies.

The U.S. State Department declined to comment directly on Soltenieh's letter. Spokesman Ian Kelly said Iran had yet to give a meaningful response to offers for talks.

"We have provided a path whereby Iran can become a full and respected member of the international community. It is up to Iran to make a decision as to whether it chooses that path."

The IAEA report said Iran had refused to provide documentation, access to sites or to nuclear officials for interviews which the agency had requested to reach conclusions about the intelligence materials.

It said the intelligence appeared to have come from multiple sources over different periods of time.

"(It) is sufficiently comprehensive and detailed that it needs to be addressed by Iran," the report said.

The United States, Germany, France and Britain have threatened Iran with a fourth round of U.N. sanctions if it continues enriching uranium and refuses to clear up concerns.

"(Soltanieh's) accusations are baseless. The IAEA itself accepted the material as credible," said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Soltanieh also accused Britain, France and the United States of trying to derail the IAEA's technical mandate by piling political pressure on ElBaradei. He also complained Iranian cooperation with the IAEA had been overshadowed.

Tehran allowed IAEA inspectors to revisit a heavy-water reactor site last month after barring access for a year but U.N. officials cautioned this was a one-off and Tehran had not resumed providing design information to the agency.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall in Vienna and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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