VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog has received new information about possible military aspects to Iran’s atomic activities, adding to concerns it may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile, the agency said in a report.
The new information covered alleged work in Iran “until rather recently,” including in 2010, said an official with knowledge of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation, declining to give details.
The confidential IAEA report also showed Iran pushing ahead with its disputed nuclear program and amassing more low-enriched uranium, despite increased international sanctions.
The findings may provide additional arguments for the United States and its European allies in seeking to further isolate Tehran over work they suspect is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.
Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said the report showed that Iran’s nuclear activities were continuing, “under the agency’s supervision with full success and without any interruptions,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
But he also criticized what he called “baseless accusations” and said they would harm the agency’s scientific and professional reputation.
The nine-page IAEA document was obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, a day after the European Union expanded sanctions against Iran, reflecting mounting frustration over a lack of progress in nuclear talks. The United States has also stepped up financial and other measures against Tehran.
For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone so it can take a nuclear warhead.
Iran has dismissed the allegations as forged.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano sent a letter to the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency on May 6 “reiterating the agency’s concern about the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” the report said.
In the letter to Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, he requested Iran give prompt access to relevant locations, equipment, documentation and people to help clarify outstanding issues.
The IAEA remained concerned about possible past or current undisclosed nuclear-linked work involving military related organizations, including activities “related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” the report added.
Since Amano’s last quarterly report on Iran in February, it said, “the agency has received further information related to such possible undisclosed nuclear related activities, which is currently being assessed by the agency.”
The report said Iran’s total output of low-enriched uranium since early 2007 had reached 4.1 tonnes, up from 3.6 tonnes in February, an amount that experts say could provide material for at least two or three bombs, if refined much further.
Analysts say sanctions, possible sabotage and the Stuxnet computer worm have slowed Iran’s nuclear progress, but the IAEA report showed its uranium stockpile had continued to grow.
Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants or to make weapons if processed much further.
“They have significantly raised, by 30 percent, their average output of low-enriched uranium (LEU) per month,” proliferation expert David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), said.
“The LEU output has gone up which would imply that whatever Stuxnet was doing, it isn’t doing it anymore.”
Security experts say Stuxnet, a piece of malicious computer software which interfered with industrial equipment, may have been an attempt by Iran’s foes to sabotage the nuclear work.
Additional reporting by Zahra Hosseinian