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World News

Iran may face new IAEA governors action: U.S.

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran’s dismissal of intelligence indicating it tested technology relevant to nuclear bombs could trigger action by U.N. nuclear watchdog governors to press Iran for transparency, the chief U.S. envoy said on Wednesday.

A resolution on Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors would be its first such measure since it referred Tehran to the U.N. Security Council two years ago on suspicion of running a covert nuclear arms program.

Diplomats on the 35-nation board said U.S., European and other Western members would not decide whether to seek a resolution next week until after a Security Council vote, expected as early as Friday, to increase sanctions on Iran.

But Washington’s IAEA envoy suggested prospects for such a move to pile pressure on Iran had risen after an IAEA report last week that revealed some of the intelligence, and was expanded on with video, slides and diagrams in a power-point presentation to governors by the chief IAEA inspector on Monday.

“This troubling new information we have received gives all the more reason for the Security Council to act and for the Board to back (IAEA inspectors) in continued investigations and make clear to Iran it must fully disclose past and current activities,” said U.S. Ambassador Gregory Schulte.

“We haven’t made a decision on a resolution but it could be an effective way to convey this message,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Iran has denounced the intelligence, which came mainly from a laptop spirited out of Iran in 2004 and handed to Washington, but also from U.S. allies, as baseless and fabricated.

Tehran says its nuclear energy program is geared solely to generating electricity so it can export more oil.

IRAN SAYS ITS SLATE IS CLEAN

Iran has answered all outstanding questions the IAEA had about its nuclear program and the file is now closed, Iranian IAEA Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters this week.

He said the IAEA had neither the expertise nor mandate to probe Iranian high-explosives tests and design work on a missile warhead, denying these projects had any link with processing of uranium for atomic fuel as the intelligence suggests.

The IAEA report said flat denials were not good enough and called for substantive explanations from the Islamic Republic, which was confronted with details of the intelligence for the first time last month after Washington declassified some of it.

Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s safeguards chief, showed board members what he described as Iranian video of mock-ups of a missile cone configured in a way suggesting it was meant to carry a nuclear warhead, Western diplomats in the session said.

Also shown was documentation depicting tests with missile warheads and trajectories where the altitude of the explosion made little sense for conventional weaponry, they said.

Heinonen said Iran had not allowed his team to interview an official, known as Fakrizadeh and an ex-head of Tehran’s Physics Research Centre, who appeared to be “in the middle of a lot of these efforts”, according to a senior diplomat in the gathering.

“It was dramatic presentation illustrating why countries are worried about the nature of Iran’s program,” Schulte said.

Diplomats at Heinonen’s briefing said key documentation was based on what was described as an Iranian progress report dated in early 2004 and pointing to “weaponisation” work during 2003.

That was the year Iran halted an active effort to devise a nuclear warhead, a U.S. intelligence report said in December. But it said Iran continued to develop enrichment technology that would eventually give it the latent capability to produce bombs.

Some IAEA board diplomats from the Non-Aligned Movement, whose members comprise about a third of the body, were skeptical of the intelligence and therefore the need for a resolution.

“We treat this intelligence as allegations, not findings, noting that the IAEA itself cannot confirm the authenticity,” said a non-aligned diplomat who asked not to be named.

Editing by Richard Balmforth

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