ISRAEL BELIEVES IRAN FALLS BEHIND IN NUKE PROGRAM
Middle East Newsline
June 3rd, 2004
JERUSALEM [MENL] -- Israeli military intelligence has determined that Iran has fallen a year behind schedule with its nuclear weapons program.
Israeli intelligence chiefs told senior Cabinet ministers in a briefing in mid-May that Teheran's nuclear weapons program has been hampered by the international effort to inspect Iran's nuclear facilities. The intelligence chiefs were quoted as saying that the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency of undeclared nuclear facilities led to a suspension of plans to begin massive uranium enrichment in 2004.
The IAEA effort, backed by the United States, has led to a revision of when Iran would achieve independent capability to produce nuclear weapons. The original assessment issued in mid-2003 asserted that Iran would achieve such capability around July 2004.
But following the IAEA inspections at such facilities as Kalaye and Natanz, Israeli intelligence said Iran would not be able to achieve indigenous nuclear weapons capability until the second quarter of 2005. Israeli sources said the revised assessment assumes that Iran will eventually establish the facilities and develop the methods required for the operation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
Iran admits to importation of nuclear components
The World Today
Thursday, 3 June , 2004
By Tanya Nolan
ELEANOR HALL: A secret report by UN nuclear inspectors reveals that after repeated denials, Iran has finally admitted that it's been importing nuclear parts to build centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium.
Two news agencies say they've seen the confidential report to be presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting later this month, which reveals inspectors have found more evidence of highly enriched uranium at two separate sites.
This comes as the biggest investigation of nuclear parts smuggling in history tries to uncover what happened to equipment Libya has admitted it ordered, before it declared last year that it would abandon its efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Libya admitted to US officials that the sensitive parts that it bought on the black market last year have not been delivered, and as Tanya Nolan reports, experts fear the number of countries involved in the nuclear smuggling ring could be much larger than previously thought.
TANYA NOLAN: In its leaked secret report, the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is being far more open about its nuclear program.
The report, seen by two separate media organisations, reveals that IAEA inspectors found traces of highly enriched uranium at two separate sites within Iran.
Iran had consistently denied ever importing centrifuge parts. Now it admits that the uranium traces were already on the equipment it had bought from abroad, but wouldn't say from where.
John Simpson has advised the United Nations on issues of nuclear non-proliferation for around 20 years. He's even been awarded an OBE for his work. And Professor Simpson says the IAEA has been trying to prove what it's long suspected.
JOHN SIMPSON: It thought it had identified the source of the enriched uranium. They thought that the source of this was Russian submarine fuel and that what the Iranians had been doing was taking this Russian submarine fuel and running it through a relatively small centrifuge cascade, which would take it up to weapons grade. I mean, that certainly was what was thought was the reason why the centrifuges were thought to be contaminated.
TANYA NOLAN: Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear warheads, but it can also be used to generate electricity and that's what Iran insists it's nuclear program is all about.
But the United States is not convinced and accuses Tehran of denial and deceit.
According to media reports however, the secret report raises more questions than it answers, and IAEA Chief, Mohamed el Baradei, said no proof has been found of a concrete link between Iran's nuclear activities and its military program.
One country that is being far more forthcoming about its nuclear ambitions is Libya, which declared in December that it was giving up its aim to build nuclear weapons. In doing so though, it had to make an embarrassing confession to American authorities. It had purchased parts on the black market to build at least 4,000 advanced centrifuges, but many of those parts never arrived.
Professor Simpson says there are several theories about where they could've ended up, but little evidence.
JOHN SIMPSON: There are those in the United State which believe that the blueprints for a nuclear bomb, which the Libyans were given by A.Q. Khan, may also have gone to Iran. But we also have information which suggests that the uranium hexafluoride which the Libyans had for use in their centrifuges came from North Korea as well.
TANYA NOLAN: A.Q. Khan is Abdul Qadeer Khan, the former Pakistani nuclear scientist who's believed to have been the ringleader of the nuclear black market. And although he's confessed to passing on nuclear technology to Iran and Libya, he's only ever been directly questioned by Pakistani authorities, which Professor Simpson says leaves many critical questions unanswered.
JOHN SIMPSON: One has to assume that if A.Q. Khan was in this business on a commercial basis, ie. selling to all likely buyers, then there are more possible buyers out there than have so far, as it were, appeared.
TANYA NOLAN: UN and US investigators have recovered tens of thousands of nuclear parts in their investigations of the black market, that stretches from the Middle East to South East Asia.
But Professor Simpson says the parts on their own pose no threat, it's whether or not any one country has all the components it needs to build a nuclear bomb.
JOHN SIMPSON: The most obvious country in this is Pakistan. The ordering of these parts by the Pakistanis appears to have been in excess of the parts needed for the 4,000 centrifuges which were ordered by the Libyans, so it raises the obvious question: where have the rest of the parts gone to?
ELEANOR HALL: Indeed, nuclear non-proliferation expert, Professor John Simpson, ending that report from Tanya Nolan.