IAEA denies report it is sure Iran seeking atom bomb

VIENNA Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:47pm EDT

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VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear agency has no proof that Iran has or once had a covert atomic bomb program, it said on Thursday, dismissing a report that it had concluded Iran was on its way to producing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency reaffirmed IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's September 9 comment that allegations the agency was sitting on evidence of Iranian bomb work were "politically motivated and baseless."

"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapons program in Iran," an IAEA statement said.

The IAEA received information from a variety of sources that might be relevant to verifying that a state was not hiding nuclear bomb research or development, it said.

All information on Iran that the IAEA had vetted has already been shared with its 35-nation Board of Governors in reports by ElBaradei.

Diplomats close to the IAEA have told Reuters it has no "smoking gun" evidence of Iran currently trying to apply nuclear technology to its ballistic missile program. Two diplomats repeated that position after Thursday's media report.

The IAEA is investigating what it calls credible Western intelligence material suggesting Iran in the past researched ways of revamping the cone of a Shabab 3 missile to fit a nuclear warhead.

The inquiry also touches on alleged Iranian plans for test-detonations of explosives at high altitude IAEA experts see as suitable for no other purpose but an atom bomb.

INTELLIGENCE COMPELLING, NOT PROVEN

While the IAEA has cited no proof of a bomb project, it reported on August 28 for the first time that the intelligence was compelling and Iran must do more to resolve suspicions.

The Associated Press quoted what it called a classified IAEA document as saying agency experts had agreed Iran now had the means to build atomic bombs and was heading toward developing a missile system able to carry a nuclear warhead.

It said the document seemed to be a "secret annex" detailing evidence of Iranian nuclear "weaponization" work which officials in Israel, Iran's arch-enemy, and France accused ElBaradei of withholding.

A diplomatic source close to the IAEA said the agency had no "secret annex" but did maintain a classified running analysis of its findings on Iran that, however, contained no final conclusions about Iran's nuclear behavior or ambitions.

"It's a work in progress. It's an assessment of where the probe stands. It's more than a listing of evidence about the alleged military dimensions the IAEA has published so far."

ElBaradei told the agency's board last week that his non-proliferation inspectors had serious concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions "but we are not in a state of panic.

"That is because we have not seen diversion of nuclear material (from declared civilian uses), we have not seen components of nuclear weapons. We do not have any information to that effect," he said.

Iran has acknowledged some activities outlined in the intelligence and denied they had nuclear use. But it is withholding documentation, refusing access to locations and officials for interviews needed by the IAEA.

Iran has repeatedly said it is enriching uranium only for electricity, not eventually for fissile bomb material, although it has no nuclear power plants to use low-enriched uranium.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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