An undisclosed International Atomic Energy Agency report asserts that Iran has developed the technological capacity to build a nuclear weapon, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 17).
"The agency ... assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device (an atomic bomb) based on HEU (highly enriched uranium) as the fission fuel," states the paper, titled, "Possible Military Dimension of Iran's Nuclear Program."
One high-level international official claimed the document was a "secret annex" containing incriminating evidence on Iran's nuclear program. Such a document has been cited recently by several Western powers concerned that Iran's atomic activities might be aimed at weapons development, but the U.N. nuclear watchdog has denied the existence of such a report (see GSN, Sept. 8).
Iran made progress toward engineering a ballistic missile capable of accommodating a warhead "that is quite likely to be nuclear," the document states.
"It is likely that Iran will overcome problems" in modifying its Shahab 3 missile to carry a nuclear warhead, the paper says, adding that Iran could already deliver a nuclear warhead to a target using "methods of unconventional delivery" such as a truck or cargo vessel.
The paper also refers to Iran's "probable testing" of a "full-scale hemispherical explosively driven shock system," an explosive component used to detonate a nuclear weapon. Tehran worked to produce a means "for initiating a hemispherical high-explosive charge" of the type used to detonate a nuclear warhead core, the report adds.
Much of the information in the report has not been released to the public, noted an official from an IAEA member state who provided a 67-page version of the paper produced between six months and one year ago. A second version of the paper extends for more than 80 pages and continues to be updated (George Jahn, Associated Press I/Yahoo!News, Sept. 18).
"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapons program in Iran," the Vienna-based organization said in a response to the AP report.
Two diplomats with ties to the U.N. nuclear watchdog yesterday reaffirmed their position that the agency has no "smoking gun" that Iran is now working on a nuclear-capable missile, Reuters reported.
Agency officials have not prepared any "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program, but they continue to update an undisclosed paper outlining the agency's findings on the effort, according to one diplomat close to the agency.
"It's a work in progress. It's an assessment of where the probe stands. It's more than a listing of evidence about the alleged military dimensions the IAEA has published so far," said the source.
"We are not in a state of panic" about Iran's atomic ambitions, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said last week.
"That is because we have not seen diversion of nuclear material (from declared civilian uses), we have not seen components of nuclear weapons. We do not have any information to that effect," ElBaradei said (Mark Heinrich, Reuters I, Sept. 17).
Meanwhile, Iran's ambassador to the agency said Wednesday that upcoming multilateral talks between Iran, the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany would present "a real, new window of opportunity," the Washington Post reported (Joby Warrick, Washington Post I, Sept. 18).
The six world powers accepted an Iranian offer last week to engage in discussions on nuclear matters and other issues. The nations hope that Iran will accept political and financial incentives to halt nuclear activities that could support weapons development; Tehran has long ruled out such a settlement, insisting its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful.
"If [the six powers] have the political will, and goodwill, if they will go beyond simply reading the text and read between the lines, they can understand that the whole thing is being done with good intentions. This is the best course of action, and this is a real, new window of opportunity that is being opened by the Iranian nation. And they should immediately and promptly seize this opportunity," Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the Post (Washington Post II, Sept. 17).
"If you use the policy of the carrot and stick, if you use the dual track of sanctions and dialogue, this is counterproductive -- this is humiliation, if you really know Iranian culture," he said. "If you tell me, 'You must,' I say, 'No.' If you say 'please,' the answer might be 'yes' or 'maybe.'"
Iran previously agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program and permit heightened monitoring by the U.N. nuclear agency, "not as an obligation but as a confidence-building measure ... in order to help and to remove ambiguities," he said. The enrichment process can generate nuclear power plant fuel but also nuclear-weapon material.
Despite being targeted with various economic penalties, Iran has refused to suspend the enrichment program again since restarting it in 2006, Soltanieh noted.
"We will pay any price, but we will not accept being dictated (to)," he said. "We had a revolution to remove a dictator" (Warrick, Washington Post I).
"We don't need nuclear weapons," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told NBC yesterday, according to Reuters. "We do not see any need for such weapons. And the conditions around the world are moving to favor our ideas."
"We have always believed in talking, in negotiating, that's our logic. Nothing has changed," he added. "If you are talking about the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes, this will never be closed down here in Iran" (Reuters II, Sept. 17).
Russia yesterday expressed optimism about the upcoming talks with Iran, scheduled for Oct. 1.
"There is a real chance today to start talks that could result in agreements, leading to a restoration of trust in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to Interfax.
Lavrov also ruled out "immediate" economic penalties against the country.
"To frustrate this chance by demanding immediate sanctions would be a serious mistake," he said.
A settlement to the Iranian the nuclear dispute "can only have a complex solution in a regional context, forged through talks, not by the use of force. Attempts to use force could have a catastrophic effect on the entire region," the official added (Interfax, Sept. 17).