IAEA shows photos alleging Iran nuclear missile work
UN nuclear watchdog agency presents evidence indicating Tehran tried to modify Shahab-3 missile cone to fit nuclear payload. Chief US representative to agency says material put forward at meeting appears 'credible,' while Iran slams claim as 'fabrication'
The UN nuclear watchdog showed documents and photographs on Tuesday suggesting Iran secretly tried to modify a missile cone to fit a nuclear bomb, diplomats said, and Tehran again dismissed the findings as forged.
Responding to the presentation to the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a senior US envoy said the information was compelling evidence of such work by the Islamic Republic. But his Iranian counterpart said the material shown was fabricated.
Iran said an IAEA inquiry into its nuclear activity was at a dead-end because the agency was demanding Tehran reveal conventional military secrets without nuclear dimensions. Iran has denied seeking atom bombs.
Britain has accused Iran of showing contempt for the UN watchdog and, with the United States and France, vowed to seek harsher sanctions on Tehran over its defiance of UN demands for full disclosure and a suspension of uranium enrichment.
The briefing focused on an IAEA report circulated to the board members Monday that said Tehran stonewalled agency efforts to follow up on the alleged weapons program. The report also confirmed that Tehran was expanding its uranium enrichment activities - which can make either nuclear fuel or warhead payloads - despite three sets of UN Security Council sanctions.
While Washington says Iran is continuing to develop the capability to make nuclear arms through enrichment, a U.S. intelligence estimate last year said Tehran apparently stopped all direct work on such a program by 2003.
Part of the report spoke of what appeared to be drawings and calculations by Iranian engineers on reconfiguring its Shahab-3 missile to be able to carry a nuclear payload, and the presentation Tuesday went into greater detail on that issue, the diplomats said.
Iranian officials say the new missile has a range of 1,250 miles - more than 2,000 kilometers - which would enable a strike on Israel and most of the Middle East.
Iran: Documentation fabricated
The presentation ''showed board members for the first time photographs and documents of work undertaken in Iran on the redesigning of the Shahab-3 missile to carry what would appear to be a nuclear weapon,'' said Gregory L. Schulte, the chief US representative to the IAEA. He said the senior IAEA official doing the briefing ''told us that information they have is very credible.''
But Schulte's Iranian counterpart said the meeting was told that the material shown could not verified.
''We have given clear information ... (on) why this material is fabricated,'' Ali Ashgar Soltanieh told reporters. He called for ''an end to this endless process'' of probing Iran for evidence of an arms program he said never existed, saying his country considered the investigation closed.
He said the meeting was told that Iran had refused IAEA requests to interview engineers involved in the work and visit their ostensibly civilian workshops, depicted in photos.
Iran repeated that the intelligence was forged or pertained only to conventional arms. It said Iran faced extraordinary and unacceptable pressure to prove unverified allegations were wrong by revealing information vital to its national security.
"No country would give information about its conventional military activities," Iran's IAEA ambassador said.
"I said in this briefing, 'Who in the world would believe there are a series of top secret documents US intelligence found in a laptop regarding a Manhattan Project-type nuclear (bomb program) in Iran and none of these documents bore seals of 'high confidential' or 'secret'?" Soltanieh said.
"This is simply unbelievable. This matter is over, as far as we are concerned," he said.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report