Login/Logout

*
*  

"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Iran

Summit Leaves Iran, North Korea Questions Unanswered

Christina Kucia

Despite what they described as “open, very frank” discussions about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their Sept. 26-27 talks at Camp David without any concrete decisions on how to address the crises.

At a joint press conference Sept. 27, Bush said the United States and Russia “share a goal…to make sure Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program.” Putin maintained that “Russia has no desire and no plans to contribute in any way to the creation of weapons of mass destruction, either in Iran or in any other spot, region in the world.” He noted that Russia’s decision to help Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehr is in full compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and agreed with Bush that both countries will continue to urge Iran to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements.

The United States has criticized Russia’s assistance to Iran in constructing the $800 million reactor and providing nuclear fuel for the plant. Russia has maintained that it will require Iran to return any spent fuel, although the two countries have yet to sign an agreement enforcing this pledge. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Concern over Iran’s nuclear energy program escalated in September after international investigators detected traces of highly enriched uranium in two facilities. (See “Concern Heats Up Over Iran’s Alleged Nuclear Program,” p. 20.)

Both presidents agreed that North Korea must cease its nuclear weapons program. At the press briefing, Bush reiterated his call for North Korea “to completely, verifiably, and irreversibly end its nuclear programs.” Putin, however, also pressed the United States to offer Pyongyang “guarantees in this sphere of security,” drawing attention to U.S. reluctance to provide such explicit guarantees. (See “U.S. Shows More Flexibility in North Korea Talks”) On the Iraq front, Bush failed to secure military or financial support from Putin for Iraq’s reconstruction.

Also during the summit, both sides discussed implementation of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which entered into force in May 2003. (See ACT, June 2003.) The Bilateral Implementation Commission, which is scheduled to meet twice yearly, has yet to convene. The commission’s first meeting may be scheduled later this fall, in late October or early November.

 

 

 

Despite what they described as “open, very frank” discussions about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President...

IAEA Report Highlights Inconsistencies in Iranian Statements About

Paul Kerr

On August 26, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report saying that “there remain a number of important outstanding issues,” about Tehran’s nuclear programs that require “urgent resolution.” The report updates the agency’s Iran investigation, presents new information about Iran’s nuclear activities, and reveals some inconsistencies in information Iran had previously provided to the IAEA about these programs. The agency will continue to investigate the unresolved issues about Iran’s nuclear activities, the report says.

Uranium Enrichment

Gas Centrifuges

One of the most important portions of the report concerns Iran’s gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment program. Washington publicly confirmed in December that Iran has a uranium-enrichment facility at the Iranian town of Natanz. Uranium enrichment can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, but it also has civilian energy applications.

Iran has made substantial progress on the facility. By February, Iran had installed more than 100 centrifuges at the Natanz facility’s pilot plant, but Tehran says it plans to install more than 1,000 by the end of 2003. A commercial plant also located at the site is expected to contain enough centrifuges to produce the equivalent of 25-nuclear bombs worth of fissile material each year.

The centrifuge technology’s origin is unclear. A French report presented at the May meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group asserted that the technology is likely of Pakistani origin, but the August 26 IAEA report says the machines are of “an early European design.”

The advanced state of the pilot facility has raised questions about whether Iran has tested centrifuges with nuclear material. The existence of the facility does not in itself violate Iran’s safeguards agreement, but testing centrifuges with nuclear material without declaring such tests to the IAEA would do so.

Tehran clams it used simulations to test the centrifuges without nuclear material. The report, however, dismisses this explanation and states that environmental samples taken at Natanz by agency inspectors in March and June “revealed particles of high [sic] enriched uranium.” Agency inspectors use sampling to determine if nuclear materials are present in a given location—a possible indication of past nuclear activity.

Iran had not declared that it possesses highly enriched uranium. Tehran has cited its importation of contaminated centrifuge components to explain the material’s presence. The report comments that “it is possible to envisage a number of possible scenarios to explain the presence of high enriched uranium” in the samples, adding that the IAEA will evaluate these unspecified scenarios during the course of its investigation.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today in June that Iran might have used uranium hexafluoride—the material introduced into gas centrifuges for processing into reactor-grade fuel—imported from China in 1991 to test centrifuges. A June 6 IAEA report revealed Tehran’s failure to disclose that it imported this material, although its safeguards agreement required it to do so. (See ACT, July/August 2003.) The report added that some of this material was found to be missing and Iran had not accounted for its absence. Iran asserts that it either evaporated or leaked from its containers. The agency is continuing to investigate the issue.

The August report revealed some other inconsistencies regarding Iran’s explanation of the enrichment program. For example, Iran had claimed the program was entirely indigenous and began in 1997 but has now acknowledged importing centrifuge components and gives 1985 as the correct starting date. Additionally, Iran initially claimed to have tested its centrifuges with inert gases but now says this is not the case.

Kala Electric Company

Inspectors took environmental samples at the Kala Electric Company during an August 9-12 visit, something Iran had previously refused to allow. The IAEA has been particularly interested in conducting sampling at this site because Tehran acknowledged it produced centrifuge components there, and the agency believes that sampling could help verify the government’s claim that it has not tested centrifuges with nuclear material. The samples are still being analyzed, but the most recent report notes that “considerable modification” of the Kala Electric Company site since inspectors’ first visit in March could adversely impact the samples’ accuracy.

Iran Plunges Ahead

Although the IAEA Board of Governors asked Iran in June to refrain from introducing nuclear material into the centrifuges at the Natanz facility, Iran did so on June 25 to test a single centrifuge, according to the August report. Iran began testing a small cascade of 10 centrifuges on August 19. A cascade is a series of connected centrifuges used to ensure that the uranium is enriched sufficiently. Tehran is following the appropriate safeguards measures for the facility, the report adds.

Laser Enrichment

The recent report also discusses Iran’s laser-based uranium-enrichment program—an alternate method of enriching uranium mentioned as an issue of concern in the June report. The report states that “Iran has a substantial [research and development] program on lasers,” but Iran claims not to have an enrichment program. IAEA inspectors visited two sites, one at Ramandeh and the other at Lashkar Ab’ad. Only the latter was identified as having a laser testing facility, but inspectors did not find any activities related to uranium enrichment being conducted there. The IAEA has asked Iran to confirm that there had not been any past “activities related to uranium laser enrichment” at any location in the country and to allow environmental sampling at that location—a request the government is considering. Tehran had previously refused access to these sites.

Other Issues of Concern

The report also says Tehran has provided additional information about its heavy-water reactor program. The government has said it plans to construct a heavy-water research reactor at Arak, where it has also been constructing a heavy-water production plant, starting in 2004. A State Department official interviewed in June said the reactor might be part of a nuclear weapons program because it is too small to contribute significantly to a civilian energy program but could generate plutonium for reprocessing into fissile material.

According to the report, Iran claims the reactor is for producing isotopes for civilian purposes and that its size is appropriate for that purpose. The report, however, notes that Iran did not provide information about hot cells, which the IAEA says it would expect to find at a facility meant to produce isotopes. Hot cells are facilities used in isotope production, but they can also be used in reprocessing spent nuclear reactor fuel. The IAEA has asked Iran to look into the matter further, citing reports that Tehran is attempting to procure equipment used in hot cells.

The report also addresses Iran’s claim that it is building a facility that would convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride without having tested it with nuclear material. Iran first told the agency that it obtained design and testing information about the facility from another country but has now admitted that it conducted uranium conversion experiments in the early 1990s, according to the report. An Iranian official announced the facility’s completion in March.

In addition, the August report contains new information about Iran’s conversion of imported uranium tetrafluoride into uranium metal. Tehran has told the IAEA that it had undertaken these conversion experiments because it had once considered constructing a uranium metal-fueled reactor. The United States is especially concerned about this issue because the most likely use Iran would have for uranium metal would be in nuclear warheads, a State Department official said in June.

Excerpts From the IAEA August 26, 2003 Report

D. Findings, Assessments and Next Steps
47. In connection with the nuclear material imported by Iran in 1991, Iran has submitted ICRs, PILs and MBRs, as well as relevant DIQs. The Agency has verified nuclear material presented to it and is currently auditing relevant source data. The issue of depleted uranium in the UF4 remains to be resolved, and the environmental samples taken in connection with the UF6 cylinders need to be analysed. To confirm that the pellet irradiation experiments have been solely for radioisotope production, the Agency has taken samples from the hot cells and lead shielded cells at the laboratories of the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre. The analytical results are not yet available.
48. In its letter of 19 August 2003, Iran acknowledged that it had carried out uranium conversion experiments in the early 1990s, experiments that Iran should have reported in accordance with its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement. Iran has stated, however, that it is taking corrective action in that regard. The Agency will continue its evaluation of the uranium conversion programme.
49. As regards enrichment, and as mentioned earlier, during the meeting of 9–12 August 2003, the Agency team received new information about the chronology and details of Iran’s centrifuge enrichment programme. Agency evaluation of the new information will require, inter alia, an assessment of the various phases of the programme and analysis of environmental samples taken at the Kalaye Electric Company workshop.
50. Additional work is also required to enable the Agency to arrive at conclusions about Iran’s statements that there have been no uranium enrichment activities in Iran involving nuclear material. The Agency intends to continue its assessment of the Iranian statement that the high enriched uranium particles identified in samples taken at Natanz could be attributable to contamination from imported components. As agreed to by Iran, this process will involve discussions in Iran with Iranian officials and staff involved in the R&D efforts and visits by Agency inspectors and enrichment technology experts to facilities and other relevant locations. In that connection, Iran has agreed to provide the Agency with all information about the centrifuge components and other contaminated equipment it obtained from abroad, including their origin and the locations where they have been stored and used in Iran, as well as access to those locations so that the Agency may take environmental samples. It is also essential that the Agency receive information from Member States either from which nuclear related equipment or other assistance relevant to the development of Iran’s nuclear programme has been exported to Iran, or which have information on such assistance.
51. In connection with the Agency’s investigation of Iran’s heavy water reactor programme, the Agency is currently evaluating design information provided on the heavy water reactor.
52. Since the last report was issued, Iran has demonstrated an increased degree of co-operation in relation to the amount and detail of information provided to the Agency and in allowing access requested by the Agency to additional locations and the taking of associated environmental samples. The decision by Iran to start the negotiations with the Agency for the conclusion of an Additional Protocol is also a positive step. However, it should be noted that information and access were at times slow in coming and incremental, and that, as noted above, some of the information was in contrast to that previously provided by Iran. In addition, as also noted above, there remain a number of important outstanding issues, particularly with regard to Iran’s enrichment programme, that require urgent resolution. Continued and accelerated co-operation and full transparency on the part of Iran are essential for the Agency to be in a position to provide at an early date the assurances required by Member States.
53. The Director General will inform the Board of additional developments for its further consideration at the November meeting of the Board, or earlier, as appropriate.

 

 


 

On August 26, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report saying that “there remain a number of important outstanding issues"...

IAEA to Discuss Advances in Iran's Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors will hold a crucial meeting on Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities this month to address concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The meeting comes after the agency released an August 26 report saying that “there remain a number of important outstanding issues” about Tehran’s nuclear program that require “urgent resolution.”

That report was the latest in a series of warnings by the IAEA about Tehran’s nuclear activities. Prompted by the United States and other countries, a June IAEA Board of Governors statement called on Iran to resolve concerns created by the government’s failure to report nuclear activities “as required by its safeguards obligations.” The statement specifically called on Tehran to sign an additional protocol to its IAEA Safeguards Agreement and allow the agency to conduct environmental sampling at the Kala Electric Company—a site where Iran might have carried out illegal uranium-enrichment activities. Safeguards agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran ratified in 1970, to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes.

The Board’s statement came just after the IAEA issued a report June 6 about Iran’s undeclared nuclear activities. Agency experts have visited Iran several times during the past two months to verify information Iran subsequently provided about these activities.

The United States has long expressed concern that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program—a charge Iran has repeatedly denied. A State Department official interviewed August 28 said that the most recent report provides “further incriminating evidence” of Iran’s violations of its safeguards agreement, adding that the IAEA needs to continue to pursue these matters.

Iran Considers Additional Protocol

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei visited Iran July 9 to urge Tehran to conclude an additional protocol, and a group of IAEA experts followed up on his visit on August 5-6 for further discussions about the matter. Since 1997, the IAEA has encouraged NPT member states to sign an additional protocol, which allows the IAEA to conduct more rigorous inspections, including visits to facilities that countries have not declared to the IAEA, in order to check for clandestine nuclear programs.

Although Iran has not yet agreed to sign it, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said that “Iran views the additional…protocol positively” and will continue discussions with the IAEA, according to an August 13 Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) report. The discussions are for clarifying details about the protocol, he said. Iran told the agency that Iran is “prepared to begin negotiation with the [IAEA] on the Additional Protocol,” according to the August 26 report.

Iran might have softened its stance on the issue of an additional protocol. Although a June IRNA report stated that Iran was conditioning its signing of the protocol on Western countries lifting restrictions on supplying nuclear technology to Iran, Aghazadeh said August 13 that “conditions are not important.” He implied, however, that Iran still wants access to nuclear technology, suggesting that the policy has not changed substantially. Article IV of the NPT says that states-parties “have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” The United States has laws against exporting dual-use goods and technology to Iran, and Washington has urged Russia to end its assistance for a nuclear program in Iran that Tehran and Moscow claim is for civilian purposes. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said August 1 that Iran signing the Additional Protocol wouldn’t be sufficient to satisfy Washington’s concerns about that country’s nuclear programs.

 

 




 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors will hold a crucial meeting on Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities this month to address concerns that Iran is...

Iran Touts Missile Capability

Wade Boese

In a July military ceremony broadcast on state-run television, Iran announced that the medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile is ready for service. If true, the missile, which has an estimated range of up to 1,300 kilometers, could target Israel.

Israel and the United States have long criticized and tried to stop Iran’s ballistic missile programs. Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, described the latest development as an “extremely grave concern.”

Iran, which is also assessed by U.S. intelligence as pursuing nuclear weapons and exploring more powerful rockets than the Shahab-3, contends its ballistic missile programs are solely for defensive purposes.

The Shahab-3 is no surprise to Israel and the United States. In an April intelligence report on ballistic missile threats, the United States described the Shahab-3 as being in the “late stages” of development. Appearing July 11 on “John McLaughlin’s One on One,” Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon said the Iranians “have not perfected the system yet, but they are working very hard on it.”

Beginning in July 1998, the Shahab-3 has reportedly accrued a mixed record in several flight tests, the last of which took place just weeks before the July 20 ceremony. Tehran described the last test as a success.

Much ambiguity still shrouds the missile. The Shahab-3 is modeled in part on North Korea’s Nodong missile, but U.S. government officials refused to comment on whether Iran could indigenously produce the missile. It is also not public how many Shahab-3s might be available for potential use. The Central Intelligence Agency reported in 1999 that Iran probably had a “limited number” of prototype Shahab-3s that could be deployed in an operational mode.

Israel says it is prepared to defend itself against an Iranian ballistic missile attack. Tel Aviv has deployed two batteries of Arrow anti-missile interceptors and is preparing to field another. Built in cooperation with the United States and designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the Arrow has yet to be used in battle.

 

 




 

In a July military ceremony broadcast on state-run television, Iran announced that the medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile is ready for service...

Turning Iran Away From Nuclear Weapons

Daryl G. Kimball

Situated in a rough, nuclear-armed neighborhood, Iran has for more than two decades been on the short list of states with the potential capability and motivation to get the bomb. Troubling revelations make it clear that Iran is now within closer reach of a nuclear weapons-making capacity than previously thought.

With Iran nearing the nuclear weapons crossroads, the international community must redouble its efforts to persuade Tehran’s leaders to accept greater transparency and forego the nuclear weapons route. In the long run, success hinges on whether the United States can fashion a new and more sophisticated strategy to reduce Iran’s incentives to acquire nuclear weapons and increase the benefits of openness and compliance.

Over the years, U.S. policymakers have successfully used the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to conduct special inspections in Iran and further limit Iran’s access to sensitive nuclear technologies. But recent site inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prompted Iran to reveal that it is pursuing a very extensive array of nuclear projects, including uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz that could provide the ingredients for nuclear weapons.

The leaders of oil-rich Iran claim that the projects are strictly for “peaceful” uses and will remain under IAEA safeguards which guard against diversion for military purposes. But without Iranian acceptance of a more intrusive inspection protocol, the IAEA cannot determine whether additional, undeclared nuclear capabilities exist or whether Iran has already enriched uranium, a step that would violate its NPT obligations.

With increased attention focused on its intentions, Iran’s wisest course would be to promptly dispel doubts by signing up to the Additional Protocol and providing the IAEA with honest answers to its inquiries. Without such cooperation, the European Union should delay the establishment of closer economic ties and Russia should withhold further technical assistance on the current light-water reactor project at Bushehr.

U.S. efforts to gain Iran’s support for the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and for reducing Russia’s nuclear assistance are vital but insufficient. Even with greater transparency under the Additional Protocol and strict compliance with the NPT, Iran may still have the capacity to produce bomb-grade nuclear material within the decade, and it might withdraw from the treaty and build nuclear weapons.

Ultimately, Iran’s leaders will decide whether to pursue the nuclear weapons path, but the United States can help affect that decision and avoid the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. To do so, Washington must finally address the factors that could encourage Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

To begin, the president and his aides must refrain from inflaming Iranian nationalism with bellicose threats and demands. Such statements, along with the inclusion of Iran in the administration’s “axis of evil,” only increase Iranian perceptions of insecurity. They reinforce arguments from hardline clerical leaders in Iran who wrongly believe that nuclear weapons enhance their national prestige, help counter Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and balance U.S. conventional forces deployed in the region.

The value of nuclear weapons for Iran is illusory. They would undermine rather than enhance Iran’s security by increasing the threat of pre-emptive attack from nuclear-armed Israel or the United States. Some Iranian leaders appear to recognize this reality. In 2002, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Iranian defense minister, said, “The existence of nuclear weapons will turn us into a threat to others that could be exploited in a dangerous way to harm our relations with the countries of the region.”

As long as U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy in the region is solely trained on denying Iran nuclear weapons while overlooking NPT outliers such as Israel, Iranian leaders are likely to ensure that they are in a position to produce nuclear weapons relatively quickly, despite the costs. Instead, the United States should convey assurances rather than threats.

One important step would be to clarify to Iran that neither the United States nor Israel will initiate a military attack as long as it does not acquire nuclear weapons, support terrorism, or threaten Israel’s existence. Washington should also reaffirm its longstanding commitment to support a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free-zone.

Iran’s nuclear activities create difficult challenges that defy quick military solutions and will require steadfast and multifaceted diplomacy. The NPT’s safeguards have their limitations, but they provide the fundamental legal and technical basis for preventing proliferation in Iran and elsewhere. Not only must Iran abide by its commitments, but the United States must also adopt a more consistent nonproliferation policy that reinforces the view within Iran that it does not need and will not benefit from nuclear weapons.

 

IAEA Presses Iran to Comply With Nuclear Safeguards

Paul Kerr

Increasing pressure on Iran to come clean about its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors issued a statement June 19 expressing “concern” that Tehran has failed to report nuclear “material, facilities, and activities as required by its safeguards obligations.”

The statement stops short of saying that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement. Such agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes. But the board urged Iran to remedy its failures and “resolve” open questions about its nuclear activities.

The board also called on Iran to conclude and implement an Additional Protocol to its existing safeguards agreement. The Additional Protocol would provide for more rigorous inspections, including visits to facilities Iran has not declared to the IAEA, to check for clandestine nuclear programs. The foreign ministers of the European Union also called on Iran to conclude the agreement in a June 16 statement. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

The United States, which welcomed the board’s statement, has long had concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program and has objected to Russia’s construction of a light-water reactor at Bushehr. Those concerns were exacerbated last August, when an Iranian opposition group revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment facility at the Iranian town of Natanz and a heavy-water reactor program at Arak. Washington publicly confirmed the existence of those facilities in December, and Tehran has since declared that it is mining uranium and pursuing a complete nuclear-fuel cycle. (See ACT, March 2003.) Iran maintains that it is not developing nuclear weapons and that its nuclear program is for producing energy, but the United States has repeatedly dismissed this explanation.

The Board of Governors statement that Iran has engaged in clandestine nuclear activity has heightened concern about the situation. The statement was based on a June 6 IAEA report, produced as the result of a series of inspections in Iran, and a February visit by the agency’s director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei.

The report identified several areas in which Iran has not complied with its safeguards agreement: Tehran failed to disclose its importation of nuclear material; the use of that material in various nuclear activities; and the facilities where the material, as well as nuclear waste, was stored and processed. The report acknowledged that Iran has now declared much of this activity and provided some relevant information about the facilities in question but said, “The process of verifying the correctness and completeness of the Iranian declarations is still ongoing.”

The Specifics

Among the report’s chief findings was that Iran imported 1,800 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride, uranium tetrafluoride, and uranium dioxide in 1991, an action it never reported to the IAEA. Iran acknowledged the imports but says it did not believe it was obligated to report such a small quantity of material. The report stated that Iran was, in fact, obligated to do so. China supplied the material, a State Department official said last month. (See ACT, June 2003.)

Significantly, the report said that some of the uranium hexafluoride—the material introduced into gas centrifuges for processing into reactor-grade fuel—has not been accounted for, suggesting that Iran has been pursuing covert nuclear activities in violation of its safeguards agreement. Although the matter is still under investigation, a State Department official interviewed June 19 said that Iran may have used some of the material to test centrifuges in its uranium enrichment program at Natanz. Uranium enrichment has civilian applications, but it can also produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

During his February visit, ElBaradei discovered that the Natanz facility, which consists of a pilot plant and a larger commercial plant, was more advanced than the agency had realized. Iran told the IAEA that the pilot enrichment plant is scheduled to start operating in June 2003 and that centrifuges are to be placed in the commercial plant starting in early 2005. The pilot plant, which had more than 100 centrifuges installed when ElBaradei visited the facility in February, is to contain 1,000 centrifuges by the end of 2003. The commercial plant will ultimately contain “over 50,000 centrifuges,” enough to produce fissile material for at least 25 nuclear weapons per year.

Constructing the centrifuges and facility buildings has not violated Iran’s safeguards agreement, but testing the centrifuges without declaring such tests to the IAEA would. According to the IAEA report, Iran has denied doing so, claiming that it tested the centrifuges via simulations. The State Department official called Iran’s explanation “extremely implausible,” adding that there is no precedent for testing centrifuges through simulations.

The question could be resolved through further examination of a site known as the Kala Electric company, where, according to the June report, Tehran acknowledged that it had produced “centrifuge components.” The IAEA asked to conduct inspections and environmental sampling to verify “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities,” which would help determine if Iran has tested centrifuges with nuclear material. After some hesitation, Iranian officials allowed the inspectors to visit the facility but have not yet allowed environmental sampling.

Additionally, the report provided details about Iran’s heavy-water reactor program. Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh publicly disclosed the program in a speech the day after Iran notified the IAEA in a May 5 letter that it plans to construct a heavy-water research reactor at Arak. Construction of the reactor is to start in 2004. Iran has also been constructing a heavy-water production plant at Arak. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

The State Department official said the reactor may be part of a nuclear weapons program because its small size will not contribute significantly to a civilian energy program (it will produce only 40 megawatts) but could generate plutonium for reprocessing into fissile material. Another State Department official interviewed in May said heavy-water reactors pose a greater proliferation risk than the proliferation-resistant light-water reactor being built at Bushehr because their spent fuel is easier to reprocess into weapons-grade plutonium. Additionally the Iranian reactor’s design uses natural uranium for nuclear fuel, which will allow Iran to bypass the uranium-enrichment process and use indigenous uranium. It could also complicate efforts to monitor the diversion of nuclear fuel.

The report also provided a number of other pieces of information that Iran had not previously made public: In addition to the gas centrifuge program, Iran has acknowledged “a substantial” laser-based uranium enrichment program, which the IAEA is also investigating. The IAEA report also questioned Iran’s claim that it is building a facility that would convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride without having tested it with nuclear material. Finally, the report added that Iran told the agency it converted most of the imported uranium tetrafluoride into uranium metal in 2000, although neither of Iran’s nuclear reactor programs require the material for fuel. The State Department official said that, under these circumstances, the main use of uranium metal would be for nuclear warheads. The IAEA is continuing to investigate the matter, the report said.

Next Steps

The IAEA is continuing its investigation into Iran’s nuclear program. The June 19 Board of Governors statement said that the IAEA expects “Iran to grant…all access deemed necessary by the Agency” to alleviate concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and to allow inspectors to take environmental samples at the Kala company. The board also requested that Iran refrain from introducing nuclear material into the centrifuges at the pilot enrichment plant “pending the resolution” of other issues surrounding the nuclear program.

Although President George W. Bush stated June 18 that the United States “will not tolerate” an Iranian nuclear weapon, the United States appears willing to let the IAEA take the lead for now. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said June 19 that the United States “welcomes” the June 6 report, and a State Department official interviewed June 19 said that the United States is awaiting the results of further IAEA investigations, which will be discussed at an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in September.

Whether Iran will cooperate with the IAEA, however, is another matter. An Iranian government spokesman stated that Iran welcomes “any measure for confidence building among the international community for peaceful use” of nuclear energy, according to a June 23 Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) report. But Aghazadeh left doubts about the extent of this cooperation. Although saying that Tehran’s cooperation with the IAEA would be “comprehensive” and “at a level acceptable to the agency,” Aghazadeh added that Iran would go ahead with its plans to enrich uranium, according to a June 22 Associated Press report. Additionally, he suggested during a June 20 Iranian television broadcast that Iran would not permit environmental sampling at the Kala company.

Tehran’s position on the Additional Protocol is also unclear. Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists during a June 20 press conference that Iran “plans to sign” the Additional Protocol, but a June 23 IRNA report stated that Iran continues to condition its signing of the protocol on Western countries lifting restrictions on supplying nuclear technology to Iran. U.S. economic sanctions on Iran are an example of such restrictions.

Moscow continues to work on the Bushehr reactor—now expected to be finished in 2004, according to IRNA—and Russian officials have said that they may build more reactors in Iran. Russia has agreed to provide fuel for the reactor, with the condition that Iran sign an agreement to return the spent fuel, but this agreement has not yet been concluded. Indeed, Russia appears to be increasingly concerned about Iran’s nuclear activities and may even condition the delivery of the Bushehr fuel on Tehran’s conclusion of an Additional Protocol, although Russian officials have issued conflicting statements on this matter.

Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev June 20 as saying that Russia will only deliver the reactor fuel if Iran “places under IAEA control all of its nuclear facilities and answers the [agency’s] questions.” A State Department official told Arms Control Today June 26 that Washington interprets this ambiguous statement to mean that the fuel delivery is conditioned on the conclusion of the Additional Protocol. The Bush administration intends to hold Moscow to that interpretation, he added.

But Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov indicated in a June 6 interview with Vremya Novostei that a Russian agreement to supply fuel to the Bushehr reactor is not related to whether Iran signs the Additional Protocol.

Although Iran and Russia say the Bushehr reactor will operate under IAEA safeguards when finished, Washington has long opposed the project out of concern that Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program. Undersecretary of State John Bolton articulated another objection to the Bushehr project during a June 4 hearing before the House International Relations Committee. He argued that Iran could build “over 80 nuclear weapons” if it had access to sufficient fuel, operated the reactor for 5-6 years, and chose to withdraw from the NPT.

Russia’s provision of fuel for Bushehr is related to U.S. concerns about Iran’s fuel cycle ambitions. The United States has argued that Iran has no need to develop a complete fuel cycle if it will receive fuel from Russia. Although Iran has countered by saying it cannot rely on foreign suppliers, the State Department official said June 19 that Iran’s known uranium reserves are insufficient to support a civilian nuclear program, but are enough to supply material for more than 100 nuclear weapons.

 

Increasing pressure on Iran to come clean about its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors issued a statement...

Iran Failed to Comply With Nuclear NPT, IAEA Reports

Amid increasing pressure from the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors addressed concerns regarding Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program at a June 16-19 meeting. What follows are excerpts from Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei’s report “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

[The full IAEA document is available at http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Documents/Board/2003/gov2003-40.pdf.


D. Findings and Initial Assessment

32. Iran has failed to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material, the subsequent processing and use of that material and the declaration of facilities where the material was stored and processed. These failures, and the actions taken thus far to correct them, can be summarized as follows:

(a) Failure to declare the import of natural uranium in 1991, and its subsequent transfer for further processing.

On 15 April 2003, Iran submitted ICRs on the import of the UO2, UF4 and UF6. Iran has still to submit ICRs on the transfer of the material for further processing and use.

(b) Failure to declare the activities involving the subsequent processing and use of the imported natural uranium, including the production and loss of nuclear material, where appropriate, and the production and transfer of waste resulting therefrom.

Iran has acknowledged the production of uranium metal, uranyl nitrate, ammonium uranyl carbonate, UO2 pellets and uranium wastes. Iran must still submit ICRs on these inventory changes.

(c) Failure to declare the facilities where such material (including the waste) was received, stored and processed.

On 5 May 2003, Iran provided preliminary design information for the facility JHL. Iran has informed the Agency of the locations where the undeclared processing of the imported natural uranium was conducted (TRR [Tehran Research Reactor] and the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Centre), and provided access to those locations. It has provided the Agency access to the waste storage facility at Esfahan, and has indicated that access would be provided to Anarak, as well as the waste disposal site at Qom.

(d) Failure to provide in a timely manner updated design information for the MIX Facility [xenon radioscope production facility] and for TRR.

Iran has agreed to submit updated design information for the two facilities.

(e) Failure to provide in a timely manner information on the waste storage at Esfahan and at Anarak.

Iran has informed the Agency of the locations where the waste has been stored or discarded. It has provided the Agency access to the waste storage facility at Esfahan, and has indicated that access will be provided to Anarak.

33. Although the quantities of nuclear material involved have not been large,6 and the material would need further processing before being suitable for use as the fissile material component of a nuclear explosive device, the number of failures by Iran to report the material, facilities and activities in question in a timely manner as it is obliged to do pursuant to its Safeguards Agreement is a matter of concern. While these failures are in the process of being rectified by Iran, the process of verifying the correctness and completeness of the Iranian declaration is still ongoing.

34. The Agency is continuing to pursue the open questions, including through:

(a) The completion of a more thorough expert analysis of the research and development carried out by Iran in the establishment of its enrichment capabilities. This will require the submission by Iran of a complete chronology of its centrifuge and laser enrichment efforts, including, in particular, a description of all research and development activities carried out prior to the construction of the Natanz facilities. As agreed to by Iran, this process will also involve discussions in Iran between Iranian authorities and Agency enrichment experts on Iran’s enrichment programme, and visits by the Agency experts to the facilities under construction at Natanz and other relevant locations.

(b) Further follow-up on information regarding allegations about undeclared enrichment of nuclear material, including, in particular, at the Kalaye Electric Company. This will require permission for the Agency to carry out environmental sampling at the workshop located there.

(c) Further enquiries about the role of uranium metal in Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle.

(d) Further enquiries about Iran’s programme related to the use of heavy water, including heavy water production and heavy water reactor design and construction.

35. The Director General has repeatedly encouraged Iran to conclude an Additional Protocol. Without such protocols in force, the Agency’s ability to provide credible assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear activities is limited. This is particularly the case for States, like Iran, with extensive nuclear activities and advanced fuel cycle technologies. In the view of the Director General, the adherence by Iran to an Additional Protocol would therefore constitute a significant step forward. The Director General will continue to keep the Board informed of developments.


NOTE

6. The total amount of material, approximately 1.8 tonnes, is 0.13 effective kilograms of uranium. This is, however, not insignificant in terms of a State’s ability to conduct nuclear research and development activities.

 

Amid increasing pressure from the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors addressed concerns regarding Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons...

U.S. Levels Accusations Against Iranian Weapons Programs

Paul Kerr

The United States has been levying charges against Iran similar to those it made against Iraq prior to the March invasion of that country, including harboring the al Qaeda terrorist network and pursuing weapons of mass destruction programs.

In a May 27 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer repeated U.S. charges that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program and rejected Iranian claims that its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes. “Our strong position is that Iran is preparing, instead, to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons. That is what we see,” he said.

Possible IAEA Safeguards Violation

Washington has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to state whether Iran is in compliance with its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). (See ACT, April 2003.) Apparently in response to this pressure, the IAEA has made the question of Iran’s compliance with its Safeguards Agreement an agenda item for its June 16 Board of Governors meeting, a State Department official said in a May 21 interview.

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Brill made a formal request during a March 17 Board of Governors meeting that IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a report on the matter, the official said. Brill, as well as other governments, including the European Union, also made this request during a May 6 IAEA meeting. Safeguards agreements allow the IAEA to monitor the nuclear facilities belonging to an NPT member state.

Washington has long expressed the belief that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but the IAEA has never found any of Iran’s nuclear activities to be in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement.

The United States argues that recent disclosures about Tehran’s nuclear activities likely place it in violation of its safeguards agreement. Undersecretary of State John Bolton stated during a May 5 press conference in Russia that Iran is “in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its safeguards agreement with the IAEA,” according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Semmel was more measured during a May 2 speech at the meeting to prepare for the 2005 NPT Review Conference, stating that Washington “strongly suspect[s]” that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement.

If the IAEA Board of Governors finds that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement, it is required to report the matter to the UN Security Council, Bolton pointed out May 5. The IAEA presented such a report about North Korea’s nuclear activities to the council in February. (See ACT, March 2003.)

In a May 1 address during the NPT conference, Semmel called on Tehran to allow the IAEA “complete access” to its nuclear facilities and “fully disclose all information about its nuclear programs.” He also called on Iran to “answer the questions and concerns that have been raised, and take all measures necessary to restore confidence in its nuclear program.” (See ACT, June 2003.)

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister G. Ali Khoshroo had already stated April 29 during the conference that Iran “is providing substantiated [sic] information in great detail and with complete transparency” to the agency.

Perhaps the most significant discovery about Iran’s nuclear program has been the revelation that Iran has made significant progress on its gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility located in a complex at Natanz. A State Department official told Arms Control Today in March that IAEA officials were surprised by the facility’s advanced state during a February visit. Uranium enrichment is one method for producing fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

Semmel stated May 2 during the NPT conference that Washington is “skeptical” that Tehran “could have developed…[the Natanz facility] without conducting pilot operations that were not reported to the IAEA.” A State Department official said in March that Iran might have introduced nuclear material into centrifuges at another location in order to test them.

An undeclared pilot program that has used nuclear material for testing purposes would be in violation of Iran’s safeguards agreement, an IAEA official confirmed in a March interview. The Natanz facility does not violate this agreement because Iran has not yet introduced nuclear material into it.

The State Department official provided new details about the IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities during a May 20 interview, stating that the IAEA is checking a shipment of Chinese-supplied nuclear material, including uranium hexafluoride, to ensure that it is all accounted for. Uranium hexafluoride is the material introduced into gas centrifuges for processing into reactor-grade fuel. If any of the material is missing, it “might suggest” that Iran has conducted activities in violation of its safeguards agreement, the official added. The official said China shipped the material in 1991.

A May 9 State Department statement detailing China’s nuclear cooperation with Iran indicates that China agreed in 1997 “not to undertake new nuclear cooperation with Iran and…[to] cancel cooperation on a uranium conversion facility.” Such a facility is used to convert uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride, an essential component of a gas-centrifuge-based nuclear program. China also agreed “to complete…two existing contracts for non-sensitive assistance”—a reference to a research reactor and a facility to produce cladding for nuclear fuel rods, according to a 2001 Department of Defense report. The statement does not mention the 1991 shipment.

The official added that the United States hopes the IAEA “requests access to all suspect sites” in Iran, including a site occupied by the Kala Electric company. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the Mujahideen-e Khalq resistance group that publicly revealed the existence of the Natanz facility in August 2002, referred to Kala Electric as a “front company” for the uranium-enrichment project.

Iran is involved in other nuclear activities, but none have yet been found in violation of its safeguards agreement.

Semmel’s May 2 speech addressed another U.S. concern about Iran’s nuclear program: its construction of a heavy-water plant near a town called Arak. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated May 9 that the heavy-water plant is part of a plan for Iran to develop an additional capability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons via plutonium reprocessing. Iran has no such reactor at present and is currently constructing light-water reactors, which are less suited for plutonium production, Boucher said.

Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said in a May 6 speech during the NPT conference that Iran will be building Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU)-type heavy-water nuclear reactors, but he said their construction would not be a proliferation concern because they would operate under IAEA safeguards.

A State Department official said in a May 28 interview that heavy-water reactors pose a greater proliferation risk than light-water reactors because it is easier to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium from the spent fuel. Additionally, CANDU reactors use natural uranium for nuclear fuel, which allows countries to bypass the uranium-enrichment stage and use indigenous uranium, the official said. The use of natural uranium can also potentially complicate efforts to monitor the diversion of nuclear fuel, he added.

The United States first expressed concern about the plant in December, but construction of the heavy-water plant does not itself violate Iran’s safeguards agreement.

Semmel also cited Iran’s “aggressive pursuit of a full nuclear fuel cycle capability” as evidence that the country is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced in February that it has started mining uranium and is developing the facilities necessary for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani announced in March that Iran would begin operating its uranium-conversion facility, completed by Iran after China pulled out of the project.

In addition, Russia is constructing a light-water nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran. Washington has long opposed the project out of concern Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program, although the reactor will operate under IAEA safeguards when finished. Russia rejects the claim that its cooperation contributes to an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Russia has agreed to supply Iran with reactor fuel but only with the condition that Iran return the spent fuel. That agreement has still not been finalized, the State Department official said May 20, adding that Moscow’s condition remains in effect.

Russia also expressed some concern about Iran’s nuclear activities, although it has not stopped its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Referring to the IAEA’s investigation, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov said May 19 that Moscow has “questions” about Iran’s nuclear activities, although he did not say Moscow has any reason to believe Iran is violating its safeguards agreement. He also expressed hope that Iran would sign an Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement, which is designed to provide for more rigorous inspections.

Tehran agreed in February to discuss concluding an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, but Iran placed conditions on this agreement in March.

Aghazadeh reiterated Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is for generating electricity, arguing that the reduced use of fossil fuels for electricity will save Iran money and protect its environment. He also argued that Iran needs to produce its own nuclear fuel because it cannot rely on foreign suppliers. He added that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would not enhance its security and that all programs will operate under IAEA safeguards.

A January 2003 Congressional Research Service report states that “the consensus among U.S. experts appears to be that Iran is still about eight to ten years away from a nuclear weapons capability, although foreign help or Iranian procurement abroad of fissionable materials could shorten that timetable.” A February Defense Intelligence Agency estimate says Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2010 if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material.

The United States has also had long-standing concerns about Iran’s missile program. Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch testified before Congress in March that Tehran could “flight test” a missile capable of reaching the United States “by mid-decade,” but a December 2001 National Intelligence Estimate places this date at 2015.

Chemical Weapons

Meanwhile, the Bush administration also reprimanded Iran for its suspected chemical weapons activities. Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker accused Iran of violating its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention in an April 28 speech at the First Review Conference of the treaty—a claim the United States has repeatedly made in the past. (See ACT, June 2003.) Tehran has stated that it is not producing chemical weapons.

 

 

 

The United States has been levying charges against Iran similar to those it made against Iraq prior to the March invasion of that country...

U.S. Sanctions Firms in China, Iran, and Moldova

On May 9, the United States imposed sanctions on a Chinese company, an Iranian firm, and Moldovan entities for what the State Department described as missile-proliferation activities.

The Chinese and Iranian companies will be prohibited from signing contracts with the U.S. government or receiving U.S. aid for two years. They will also be forbidden from importing or exporting any civilian goods or services from the United States. The two Moldovan companies and one individual will be barred for two years from any U.S. contracts or deals for missile-related items.

The sanctions are expected to have the most impact on the Chinese company, North China Industries Corporation (NORINCO), because it conducts a lot of U.S. business. According to its Web site, NORINCO makes 4,000 different kinds of products, including oil field equipment, vehicles, explosives, and firearms. No penalties were imposed on the Chinese, Iranian, or Moldovan governments.

NORINCO has been sanctioned by the United States previously. A State Department official dryly noted May 23 that the recent event marks “chapter 20 in an ongoing story.”

It is uncertain whether the Chinese activities triggering the sanctions took place before or after the Chinese government issued its new policy regulating missile and missile-related exports in August 2002. Beijing unveiled the new guidelines, which parallel those followed by the United States and the 32 other members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), after extensive prodding by Washington. MTCR members, which do not include China, pledge to restrict transfers of missiles and related technologies that could deliver a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhang Qiyue said May 27 that China has “strictly and effectively implemented” its new guidelines and that NORINCO has done nothing wrong.

A Central Intelligence Agency report released in April on proliferation activities during the first half of 2002 stated that Chinese firms provided Iran, as well as others, with “dual-use missile-related items, raw materials, and/or assistance” to their missile programs.

Last year, the United States levied sanctions on several Chinese companies it accused of chemical, biological, and missile proliferation. (See ACT, September 2002.)

On May 9, the United States imposed sanctions on a Chinese company, an Iranian firm, and Moldovan entities for what the State Department described as missile-proliferation activities. (Continue)

IAEA ‘Taken Aback’ By Speed Of Iran’s Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials were “taken aback” by the advanced state of an Iranian gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility at a complex at Natanz during a February visit, according to a U.S. State Department official interviewed March 20. This revelation fueled concerns that Iran might be violating its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed in a March 17 report that he visited the site, which includes a nearly completed gas centrifuge “pilot plant” designed to enrich uranium, in February. (See ACT, March 2003.) The director-general had previously acknowledged the existence of the pilot plant shortly after his February visit, but details have emerged only in the last month indicating the advanced state of the facility.

The State Department official said ElBaradei observed approximately 164 centrifuges operating in a cascade at the pilot plant, along with parts to assemble approximately 1,000 more for a larger uranium-enrichment facility still under construction.

The State Department official also said that Washington and the IAEA believe Iran might have introduced nuclear material into centrifuges at another location in order to test them, because Tehran would not have invested in a large and sophisticated facility without sufficient testing. Such activity would violate Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA, an IAEA official confirmed in a March 25 interview. Safeguards agreements allow the IAEA to monitor the nuclear facilities belonging to a nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) member-state.

No nuclear material was in the centrifuges at the Natanz facility at the time of ElBaradei’s visit, the State Department official said.

The advanced state of the facility proves Iran has a “far more robust nuclear weapons development program” than has been publicly known, Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a March 9 appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

The State Department official said that Washington’s current policy is to allow the IAEA to continue its investigation, emphasizing that the “credibility of the safeguards regime is at risk.” ElBaradei said in his March 17 report that the agency is discussing with Tehran “a number of safeguards issues that need to be clarified, and actions that need to be taken.”

Iran first informed the IAEA of the uranium-enrichment facility in September 2002, ElBaradei said in his report. Powell revealed during the March 9 interview that the United States provided the IAEA with intelligence about the site, but he did not specify when.

Iran Accelerates Nuclear Activities

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami sparked additional concern about Iran’s nuclear capabilities when he announced shortly before ElBaradei’s visit that Iran has started mining uranium and is developing the facilities for a complete nuclear fuel cycle.

Earlier this month, Iran indicated that it is accelerating its nuclear activities. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported March 3 that Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani announced that Iran would begin operating a plant located near Isfahan that converts uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride, an essential component of the nuclear fuel cycle. Rowhani said March 3 that the facility is now complete, according to a March 14 Iranian state television broadcast.

Additionally, despite agreeing in February to discuss concluding an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, which is designed to provide for more rigorous inspections, Tehran now appears to have placed conditions on concluding a protocol. Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said in a March 13 interview with Le Monde that Tehran will not conclude a protocol unless the United States lifts economic sanctions on Iran.

Aghazadeh argued that the sanctions block Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear materials, although Tehran is allowed to acquire them under Article IV of the NPT, which states that states-parties “have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

Washington has repeatedly expressed concern that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2010 if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material, according to a February Defense Intelligence Agency estimate. In addition, Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 18 that Tehran could “flight test” a missile capable of reaching the United States “by mid-decade.”

Iran continues to deny that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, arguing that its nuclear activities are transparent and consistent with IAEA safeguards.

Russian Cooperation Continues

Meanwhile, Russia signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran providing for “joint efforts” in several fields, including “peaceful” development of nuclear energy, according to a March 19 IRNA report. The precise contents of the memorandum are not yet known, according to a State Department official interviewed March 21.

Russia is constructing a nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran. Washington has long opposed the project out of concern Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program, although the reactor will operate under IAEA safeguards when finished.

Russia has agreed to supply Iran with reactor fuel, but only with the condition that Iran return the spent fuel. According to a March 12 IRNA report, Assadollah Sabouri, deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Russia will deliver the fuel in May 2003. The State Department official, however, said March 20 that the deal to provide the fuel has not yet been signed and that Russia’s condition remains in effect.

In addition, the official said in a March 21 interview that Moscow has also given the United States “assurances” that it will not ship fuel until construction of a facility to store the fresh fuel from Russia is completed. The date of that facility’s completion is unknown, he added. Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev had also said March 13 that fuel would not be shipped until the storage facility was completed, Interfax reported.

The State Department official said March 20 that Moscow might change its stance on nuclear cooperation with Iran if that country is found to be in violation of its safeguards agreement. Russia has long cited Iran’s compliance with IAEA safeguards as evidence that Tehran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials were “taken aback” by the advanced state of an Iranian gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility at a complex at Natanz during a February visit...

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Iran