UN deadline passes, Iran presses on

24 May 2007

Iran failed to suspend its uranium enrichment activities in time for the UN Security Council's 23 May deadline, the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) has announced.

The Agency was also unable to verify some aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran's nuclear program, although it could verify the non-diversion of the country's declared nuclear material. Iran maintains that its nuclear ambitions remain peaceful.

In a report to the Board of Governors of the IAEA, director general Mohammed ElBaradei noted that Iran's failure to provide more than the minimum of required information over the past year has meant that the level of knowledge of some aspects of Iran's nuclear related activities has deteriorated.

In March, Iran agreed to a modified safeguards approach for the its Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz, including unannounced visits. The first such visit took place on 13 May, and found that eight cascades of 164 enrichment centrifuges were operating simultaneously and being fed with uranium hexafluoride (UF6). Two similar cascades had undergone testing and three more were under construction. This would make a total of 2132 centrifuges in the 164-machine cascades. Earlier in the year Iran had said it planned to have 3000 centrifuges running by May. Iran has claimed that it has reached enrichment levels of up to 4.8%, claims that the IAEA is still verifying.

Iran's unilateral decision on 29 March to "suspend" the implementation of a modified safeguards code and revert to an earlier version has hampered IAEA attempts to verify design information, especially with regard to the IR-40 heavy water research reactor at Arak. Satellite imagery indicates that civil construction of the plant and operation of the related Heavy Water Plant are continuing.

In summary, the report says, "unless Iran addresses the outstanding verification issues, and implements the Additional Protocol and the required transparency measures, the Agency will not be able to... provide assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran or about the exclusively peaceful nature of that programme."

Separately, politicians from the USA and France have already been quoted in the press calling for tougher UN sanctions against Iran, to make it cease enrichment activities. Nicholas Burns, US under secretary of state for political affairs, was quoted as saying "Iran is thumbing its nose at the international community." ElBaradei, in contrast, has suggested instead an approach to cap, rather than halt, Iran's enrichment activities.

Further information

International Atomic Energy Agency

WNA's Iraq, North Korea & Iran - Implications for Safeguards information paper

WNN: ElBaradei: 'Cap, not halt, Iran's program'
WNN: Iran defiant as UN imposes further sanctions
WNN: INSIGHT BRIEFING: Iran rebuked by sanctions