x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

IAEA has 'serious concerns' over Iran's atomic activities

The chief of UN's nuclear watchdog says Tehran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium.

VIENNA // Iran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium and the UN nuclear watchdog has "serious concerns" about possible military dimensions to Tehran's atomic activities, the agency's chief said yesterday.

Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also told the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors (of which the UAE is a member) about the lack of progress in two rounds of talks between agency and Tehran this year.

Iran denies suspicions that it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons capability, in part by coordinating efforts to process uranium, test high explosives and revamp a ballistic missile cone to accommodate a nuclear warhead.

Its refusal to curb sensitive atomic work that can have both civilian and military applications has drawn increasingly tough UN and western sanctions.

The IAEA says that during meetings in the Iranian capital last month and in January, Iranian officials stonewalled requests for access to a military site seen as central to the agency's investigation.

"The agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme," Mr Amano told the closed-door meeting.

The IAEA "is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities," he said.

A report by the IAEA to member states last month said Iran was significantly stepping up uranium enrichment, a finding that sent oil prices higher on fears that tensions between Tehran and the West could boil over into military conflict.

Since the IAEA's previous report in November, Mr Amano said Iran has tripled monthly production of uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 per cent, which is well above the level usually needed to run nuclear power plants.