Israel is suspected of leaking several documents from an IAEA investigation implicating Iran in nuclear weapons experiments, The Guardian reported Monday, citing Western diplomats.
According to the report, the measure was meant to raise international pressure on Tehran to halt its atom program. But the plan may have backfired, instead compromising the UN's probe, the diplomats say.
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The latest leak, published by the Associated Press last month, was said to be an Iranian diagram showing the physics of a nuclear blast, but scientists quickly pointed out an elementary mistake that cast doubt on its significance and authenticity.
Leaked graph (Photo: AP)
"This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax," an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said.
AP did not name the source of the diagram, noting only that it was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program in order "to bolster their arguments that Iran's nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon."
Shadow war in Vienna
A European diplomat asserted that the disclosure did nothing but compromise the ongoing IAEA investigation into Iran's past and present atomic dealings.
"This is just one small snapshot of what the IAEA is working on, and part of a much broader collection of data from multiple sources," the diplomat said.
"The particular document turns out to have a huge error but the IAEA was aware of it and saw it in the context of everything it has. It paints a convincing case."
The Guardian cited analysts as saying that the recent leaks may have shown the IAEA's hand, revealing what it knows and does not know, and therefore undermined the position of its inspectors in the tense and so far fruitless talks with Iranian officials about the country's past nuclear activities.
David Albright, a nuclear expert working for the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, told The Guardian that "Whoever did this has undermined the IAEA's credibility and made it harder for it to do its work."
According to the British paper, the leaks are part of an intensifying "shadow war" over the Islamic Republic's atomic program being played out in Vienna, where the IAEA is based.
The paper further reported that for security reasons, there are no longer any Farsi speakers at the IAEA's safeguards department to analyze documents coming in about the Iranian nuclear program.
"It is a serious problem," a former inspector said. "We asked for something to be done about it but we were told it was a matter of trust, that these people would have relatives in Iran and would be open to pressure."
Representatives of the IAEA and Iran are due to hold another round of talks in Tehran on Saturday. The US has said that if the Islamic Republic does not cooperate with the UN agency's investigation by March, the matter should be referred to the Security Council.
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