Iran denies nuclear arms allegations

U.N. reported evidence of experimentation but found no atomic weapons


TEHRAN, Iran - The Iranian representative to the United Nations nuclear agency dismissed yesterday accusations that Iran had tried to make nuclear weapons. He also said that a failure to inform the agency about how advanced its nuclear program had become was insignificant.

"The failures that Iran has been reproached for are minor and are only at the level of gram or milligram, while in the past some countries had problems with larger quantities of plutonium," Ali Akbar Salehi said, according to state television.

"Failures are a normal thing, and the report of last year by the agency stated failures by 50 countries," Salehi added, referring to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In Iran's case he was referring to enrichment of uranium, importation of equipment, including centrifuges, and the building of new nuclear sites.

A report Monday by the U.N. nuclear agency said it had found no evidence that Iran was producing nuclear weapons but that documents turned over by Iran showed a clear pattern of years of experimentation in producing small amounts of material, including plutonium, that could be made into weapons.

The findings by the U.N. nuclear agency fell short of backing up the Bush administration's allegations that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for its nuclear weapons program. But the agency concluded that "given Iran's past pattern of concealment, it will take some time before the agency is able to conclude that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

Salehi acknowledged that Iran had failed for a long time to meet its safeguard commitments. But he said the failures belonged to the past and that corrective measures had been taken.

"Therefore the matter is closed," he said.

The report said Iran acknowledged producing "small amounts of low-enriched uranium using both centrifuges and laser enrichment processes," which it had never reported to the agency, a violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. However, low-enriched uranium would require further processing and enrichment to be used in the production of a bomb.

Iran also said it had separated "a small amount" of plutonium, the report said. The amounts reported by Iran, if accurate, would not be enough to produce a nuclear weapon.

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