Iran is stonewalling the U.N. nuclear watchdog on “possible military dimensions” to its suspect nuclear program, officials said Friday, urging the regime to clarify the mysterious role of a foreign explosives expert and shed light on other issues.
A senior Iranian envoy angrily denounced the assessment as “fabrication,” insisting his country has gone out of its way to be transparent and cooperative.
In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has pressed the Islamic Republic to clarify its uranium enrichment activities and reassure the world that it's not trying to build an atomic weapon.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared solely toward generating electricity. The United States and important allies contend the country is covertly trying to build an atomic weapon.
Before six-power talks on Iran on Sept. 2 – and a key meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board a week after that – the IAEA acknowledged that Iran has been producing nuclear fuel at a slower rate and has allowed U.N. inspectors broader access to its main nuclear complex in the southern city of Natanz and to a reactor in Arak.
But the Vienna-based agency delivered a blunt assessment: “Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities.”
“There remain a number of outstanding issues which give rise to concerns and which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program,” said the text, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
It said the IAEA “does not consider that Iran has adequately addressed the substance of the issues, having focused instead on the style and form … and providing limited answers and simple denials.”
The report contained a reference to a “foreign national with explosives expertise” who apparently assisted the Iranian nuclear program. It did not identify the expert by name or nationality, and officials – pressed by the AP for details – would not elaborate.
Iran's chief representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the AP he found the report “very frustrating,” and angrily suggested that U.S. intelligence was working to undermine Iran's credibility.
“America alleges that Iran has a Manhattan Project” to build a bomb, Soltanieh said. “This is ridiculous. This game is enough. It should be over. … We have tried to take a very logical and pragmatic approach.”
“All these things are fabrications. We have been too transparent and cooperative with the agency,” he added.
“They say they want to have the right to a civilian nuclear energy program, but they also have the obligation to show the world that that is indeed what they intend to do,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Friday in Washington.
The report raised the specter of harsher international sanctions against Iran for not answering lingering questions about its nuclear activities.
President Barack Obama has given Iran something of an ultimatum: Stop enriching uranium or face harsher penalties. In exchange, it could get trade benefits from the six countries engaged in the talks: the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.