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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Unexplained Nuclear Material Found at Iranian Waste Site, IAEA Says

The International Atomic Energy Agency is seeking information from Iran regarding unexplained traces of plutonium and enriched uranium found at an nuclear waste site, the Associated Press reported today.

That situation is noted in a report being readied for the meeting next week of the IAEA Board of Governors. The report by agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei also addresses Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog and its continued uranium enrichment efforts.

“The agency will remain unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,” unless Tehran offers more cooperation, the report states.

That cooperation is a “prerequisite for the agency to be able to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” it adds (George Jahn, Associated Press I/Yahoo!News, Nov. 14).

“It will be more of the same — no progress on resolving the outstanding questions and an unchanged pace of small-scale enrichment,” a senior diplomat told Reuters.

“The Iranians have basically told the IAEA that unless control over their case is returned by the U.N. Security Council to the agency, there will be no explanations on issues the IAEA has been investigating for some time,” the diplomat said.

Iran’s nuclear program is geared for significant growth in the near future, the report is expected to state.

Iran said Sunday it plans to have 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges operating by March 2007. Those centrifuges could produce enough highly enriched uranium for one weapon per year, though Tehran claims its nuclear program is peaceful, Reuters reported (Mark Heinrich, Reuters, Nov. 13).

Tehran also reportedly has set aside $418 million in secret funding to expand its nuclear work, United Press International reported. The money would fund construction of a secret nuclear site, production of new centrifuges, and additional safeguards against attacks on existing facilities, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

News of the fund came from a senior Iranian official through a phone line that had been tapped by a Western intelligence agency, UPI reported (United Press International, Nov. 14).

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today said his nation is nearing completion of its nuclear program, the Associated Press reported.

“With the wisdom and resistance of the nation, today our position has stabilized. I’m very hopeful that we will be able to hold the big celebration of Iran’s full nuclearization in the current year,” he said. The current Iranian calendar year ends on March 20.

The United States and its allies “have finally agreed to live with a nuclear Iran, with an Iran possessing (the whole) nuclear fuel cycle,” he claimed.

The permanent members of U.N. Security Council and Germany have so far failed to agree on sanctions that could be placed on Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment activities (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press II/Yahoo!News, Nov. 14).

Representatives from the six nations met yesterday at the United Nations and are scheduled to meet again tomorrow. “I think the whole purpose of this exercise is to better understand where we all are coming from,” said Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said revisions offered by Russia would “cut back substantially from the scope” of materials and technology that would be banned under a sanctions plan developed by the European powers (Justin Bergman, Associated Press III/ABC News, Nov. 14).

With U.N. talks seemingly at a standstill, Washington will press next week to have the IAEA board deny Iran’s request to the agency for support in development of a heavy-water nuclear reactor at Arak, AP reported. The board is expected to reject the request, diplomats said.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn last week called heavy-water reactors “excellent plutonium bomb factories” (see GSN, Nov. 10; George Jahn, Associated Press IV/ABC News, Nov. 14).

U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meeting yesterday in Washington, spoke out against Iran’s nuclear program, AP reported.

“I recognize the threat to world peace that the Iranians pose, as does the prime minister,” Bush said.

“It is very important for the world to unite with one common voice, to say to the Iranians that if you choose to continue forward, you’ll be isolated, and one source of isolation would be economic isolation,” he said.

“There is no question that the Iranian threat is not just a threat to Israel, but for the whole world,” Olmert said (Barry Schweid, Associated Press V, Nov. 14).
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