VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran accused the new head of the U.N. nuclear agency on Wednesday of issuing a misleading and unbalanced report on Iran’s atomic activities, saying he omitted important information.
The International Atomic Energy Agency report, the first issued since Yukiya Amano became director-general, voiced concern Iran may be actively trying to design a nuclear-armed missile now, and not just in the past.
The report, which brought expressions of alarm from Western powers and Russia, used unusually forthright language and took a harder-hitting line on Iran than those of Amano’s predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, who left office three months ago.
Amano urged Iran to cooperate with the agency without delay to verify that its uranium enrichment program was solely for peaceful uses, as Tehran maintains.
“The report is not balanced and factual, since it has not duly reflected the explanations of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the questions (of) the agency,” Iran’s IAEA ambassador, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told diplomats and IAEA officials in a closed-door briefing on the report.
Last week Iran announced a start to higher-level enrichment after failing in a bid to renegotiate an IAEA-backed plan for big powers to provide it with fuel rods for nuclear medicine made from uranium refined up to 20 percent purity.
Analysts say Iran lacks the technology to convert such uranium to power a medical isotope reactor, and has earmarked for higher enrichment a portion of its uranium stock far greater than what would be needed to keep the plant running.
That raises concern, they say, whether Iran’s true goal is bomb-grade uranium fuel, which is refined to 90 percent.
Amano’s report complained that Iran had begun feeding LEU (low-enriched uranium) into centrifuges for higher refinement before inspectors could reach the Natanz pilot enrichment plant and beef up surveillance methods accordingly.
Soltanieh denied this and said the line in the report was “misleading” because Iran had given the IAEA enough notice.
He said the report’s treatment of intelligence on alleged nuclear “weaponization” research by Iran lacked balance.
“The fact that the material of the alleged studies lacks authenticity, as declared by the former director-general, is missing in this report,” he said.
ElBaradei’s final report in November assessed the mainly Western intelligence as consistent and compelling but said it had not been fully authenticated. It included references to Iran’s denunciations of the material as “forged” and “baseless.”
Other Iranian officials have suggested Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, is a tool of Western powers that have long wanted the IAEA to take a steelier approach to Iran.
A senior Western diplomat accredited to the IAEA denied that.
“No one has twisted Amano’s arm. He has said repeatedly he intends to empower the Agency to do its job as it was meant to do,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Diplomats at Wednesday’s briefing said IAEA inspectors told Soltanieh the agency was pressing Iran to clear up questions over the alleged bomb research because of an “avalanche of information” on suspect activities that had built up over time.
Amano’s report will be a major part of deliberations at a week-long meeting of the Vienna-based IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors starting on Monday.
Editing by Mark Heinrich and Tim Pearce
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