The Financial Times of London reported Thursday that an IAEA report said Iran was continuing to enrich uranium, despite a U.N. call to cease.[1]  --  George W. Bush proclaimed:  “There must be consequences for Iran’s defiance,” while “a senior U.S. defense official” told the Times the U.S. was “still very much in the diplomatic phase.”  --  While the Financial Times characterized the IAEA report as showing Iran “was still making only halting progress,” on Friday the New York Times, using unnamed sources, spoke of “new suspicious activities” in a dramatically headlined story.[2] -- Reporter Elaine Sciolino wrote ominously that “The [IAEA] report did not specify the level of the particles or whether they were weapons-grade quality” despite the fact that the next sentence of the report said that “The official who was discussing the report refused to be drawn into that discussion, suggesting that such a definition was meaningless. ‘You cannot say weapons-grade, but very high,’ he said.”  --  The Times dramatically called EU representative Javier Solana’s plan to visit Iran “a final attempt to seek a way out of the impasse.”  --  This tone and the use of unnamed sources have long marked the coverage that has characterized the Times’s approach to the matter of Iran’s nuclear program:  as we pointed out more than a year ago, in essence the Times embraces the right of the West to dictate to Iran on this subject....



Middle East & Africa

By Daniel Dombey (Laappeenranta, Finland) and Stephen Fidler (London)

Financial Times (UK)
August 31, 2006

President George W. Bush on Thursday declared that Iran had to face “consequences” for its failure to meet a United Nations deadline to scale back its nuclear program.

But a report for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, confirmed that while the Islamic Republic was continuing to enrich uranium -- a process that can generate both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material -- it was still making only halting progress.

In July, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution requiring Iran to halt enrichment by August 31.

“There must be consequences for Iran’s defiance,” Mr. Bush said, in a statement seemingly intended to build international support for sanctions on Tehran. “We must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”

“We are still very much in the diplomatic phase,” a senior U.S. defense official told the FT. Asked about military options against Iran’s nuclear sites, he added: “It’s a very complex military problem. That doesn’t mean things can’t be done.”

The U.S. has convened a meeting of diplomats from the big powers to discuss possible sanctions against Iran in Berlin next week.

But the drive towards such measures has been undermined by Russia and China’s continued resistance to sanctions. The EU is continuing contacts with Tehran in a bid to convince the Islamic Republic to suspend uranium enrichment.

On Thursday, the office of Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said that he had agreed to meet Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear security official, “soon.”

But, speaking before the report was released, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, told a national radio audience that “Iranians will not surrender to forceful talk, aggression, and deprivation of their rights.”

The IAEA report, which will be forwarded to the Security Council, said that “the agency remains unable to make further progress in its efforts . . . with a view to confirming the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” underlining Iran’s refusal to hand over documents the IAEA says it needs.

But it added that Iran was still operating only one 164 centrifuge “cascade” to enrich uranium, although it planned to start using another this month.

Nuclear inspectors believe that operations on such a small scale would take years to produce sufficient material for a nuclear bomb, although if Iran achieved its objective of a fully functioning 3,000-centrifuge cascade it could generate enough material within 12 months.

The IAEA report added that Iran had restarted enriching uranium on August 24, after previous periods of doing so in June and July.

The report also confirmed Iran’s announcement that it had enriched uranium to 5 per cent, more than is strictly needed for nuclear fuel, but far less than the levels of 90 per cent and above needed for weapons.



Middle East

By Elaine Sciolino

New York Times
September 1, 2006

[PHOTO CAPTION: Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna on Thursday.]

VIENNA -- The global nuclear monitoring agency deepened suspicions on Thursday about Iran’s nuclear program, reporting that inspectors had discovered new traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian facility.

Inspectors have found such uranium, which at extreme enrichment levels can fuel bombs, twice in the past. The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that at least some of those samples came from contaminated equipment that Iran had obtained from Pakistan.

But in this case, the nuclear fingerprint of the particles did not match the other samples, an official familiar with the inspections said, raising questions about their origin.

In a six-page report to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, the agency withheld judgment about where the material came from and whether it could be linked to a secret nuclear program.

Iran says that its nuclear program is intended only for the production of energy, which would use uranium enriched at far lower levels than the sample described in the report.

As expected, the report confirmed that Iran had continued producing enriched uranium, but only on a small scale and at relatively low levels, at its vast Natanz facility.

Thursday was the deadline set by the Security Council for Iran to freeze its enrichment-related activities. Iran’s failure to comply means that it is vulnerable to further punitive action, perhaps economic and political penalties, either by the entire Council or a smaller group of countries led by the United States.

In a speech at the American Legion national convention in Salt Lake City, President Bush ratcheted up his warning to the Iranian leadership, saying that the war in Lebanon and Iran’s support for Hezbollah “made it clearer than ever that the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran.”

He concluded by saying that while he was committed to a diplomatic solution to the confrontation with Iran, “There must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”

The European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, are to meet in Europe next week in a final attempt to seek a way out of the impasse. Afterward, the major world powers will meet in Europe to discuss Iran’s case. But Russia and China are resisting sanctions and Iran has shrugged off all threats, vowing to continue its nuclear activities even as it seeks negotiations.

As in the past, the nuclear agency painted a confusing and incomplete picture of the state of Iran’s nuclear program, underscoring the limits of outside inspectors whose access to Iran’s nuclear sites was curtailed by Iran early this year.

On one hand, the report makes clear that, as the official familiar with the inspections said, “Inspectors have not uncovered any concrete proof that Iran’s nuclear program is of a military nature.”

On the other hand, the report captures the long pattern of confusion, stonewalling, partial disclosure of information, and a minimum of cooperation under Iran’s international obligations to the agency and details new suspicious activities.

Since February, when the agency referred the Iran dossier to the Security Council, Iran has drastically reduced the access of the international inspectors. The decision has limited or blocked inspections of hundreds of the country’s atomic sites, programs and personnel; the result is more uncertainty and less information about Iran’s progress in mastering the basics of uranium and plutonium, the foundations for both producing electricity and building bombs.

Most noteworthy in the report was the discovery of particles of highly enriched uranium on a container at a waste storage facility at Karaj, not far from Tehran.

The particles were taken from the container for testing a year ago, but the agency obtained the result only a few weeks ago because of the limited capacity of its verification laboratory.

In late 2003, the discovery of traces of highly enriched uranium in Iran touched off international concern about the country’s nuclear intentions and raised questions about where the material had originated. Another find of the radioactive material earlier this year redoubled the sense of alarm.

But Thursday’s disclosure was different, diplomats said. “This is the first case with no known linkage,” said one European diplomat who could not be quoted by name because of diplomatic rules. “But we have to be careful because over time these things can be explained away, at least in theory.”

Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, was cautious in talking about the new evidence, but said, “We need to be very concerned that Iran may well be undertaking experiments, and may be undertaking the construction of centrifuge machines, out of sight of I.A.E.A. inspectors.”

Highly enriched uranium, containing 80 percent or more of the rare uranium-235 isotope, is considered bomb grade and can be fashioned into the core of a nuclear weapon.

Iran says its atomic program is meant to enrich uranium to the low levels of up to 5 percent for the production of nuclear power, but the United States calls that effort a cover for the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal.

The agency has written to Iran asking for an explanation of the source of the highly enriched particles, but has not received a response.

The report did not specify the level of the particles or whether they were weapons-grade quality. The official who was discussing the report refused to be drawn into that discussion, suggesting that such a definition was meaningless. “You cannot say weapons-grade, but very high,” he said.

The report also concluded that Iran had continued to produce enriched uranium but on a modest scale, despite claims of various Iranian officials of plans to build and operate thousands of gas centrifuges on an industrial scale.

Indeed, Iran has built and operated only one 164-machine cascade or set of centrifuges, and other isolated machines.

Over the summer, the centrifuges did not produce enriched uranium continuously, but only for a few days and then often operated empty, the report said.

In addition, only a few kilograms of nuclear material was fed into the machines; only a small amount of uranium -- tens of grams -- was enriched, the official said.

“The qualitative and quantitative development of Iran’s enrichment program continues to be fairly limited,” the official said. He added, “From a technical point of view, we have not seen a very extensive experimentation with those machines.”

The program appears to be lagging behind Iran’s stated deadline to install 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz in the last quarter of this year.

The report documented Iran’s refusal last summer to allow inspectors into an underground part of the Natanz facility and to give inspectors multiple-entry one-year visas for easy access to the country. Iranian officials since have backed down.

The report also faulted Iran for once again failing to answer questions and provide documents and access on a wide range of issues, some of which have been outstanding for more than three years.

“There is a standstill” in resolving these issues, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of normal diplomatic rules. The agency, he added, is losing confidence that it can give the world assurances about the “completeness” of Iran’s program.

--William J. Broad and David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington for this article.