Nuclear watchdog report contradicts Iran

Inspectors weren't given free access to sites, it says

April 01, 2004|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

ISTANBUL, Turkey - An internal report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency challenges Iran's contention that it has provided international inspectors with free access to workshops where it has manufactured parts for centrifuges.

The document contradicts Iranian assurances last month that it allowed inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency unrestricted access to the sites during inspections in January.

"The agency's visit was `managed' by the Iranians in the sense that the inspectors were not permitted to take pictures with IAEA cameras or use their own electronic equipment," said the document, which was first reported by Reuters and obtained yesterday by the Los Angeles Times.

Iran signed an agreement in December promising inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear facilities and to sites where the agency suspected nuclear activities might have taken place. The agreement came after inspectors discovered traces of weapons-grade uranium at two locations and other evidence that Iran had failed to disclose.

In a paper circulated last month in Vienna, Austria, to the 35 countries on the IAEA board, Iran maintained that it had granted "full and unrestricted access" to its nuclear sites.

The contradictory report from the international agency was disclosed the same day Britain, France and Germany criticized Iran for starting operations at a uranium-conversion facility in Esfahan.

Tehran acknowledged on Saturday that it had started operations at the plant, after news media reports that uranium enrichment had begun there in February.

The European countries, which negotiated an agreement with Iran to suspend uranium enrichment last fall, said the start-up sent the "wrong signal" to the international community about Tehran's intentions.

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