Vienna, July 18 (Reuters): UN inspectors have found enriched uranium in environmental samples taken in Iran, which could mean Tehran has been purifying uranium without informing the UN nuclear watchdog, diplomats said.
The diplomats, who asked not to be named, said initial analysis showed enrichment levels possibly consistent with an attempt to make weapons-grade material and high enough to cause concern at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). If Iran, dubbed part of an “axis of evil” by Washington, has been enriching uranium without telling the IAEA, this would deepen US suspicions that its nuclear ambitions go beyond its stated aim of using nuclear energy only to generate electricity.
However, the diplomats said the mere presence of enriched uranium in the samples was not solid proof that Iran had done the enrichment itself. Contamination was another possibility, though how it had arisen would have to be explained to the IAEA.
The IAEA declined to confirm or deny the statements of the diplomats, though an agency spokeswoman said IAEA inspectors have been taking samples in Iran.
“The results of environmental sample analyses are being reviewed at the agency and we expect to take more samples over the next few weeks,” Melissa Fleming said. “Only the IAEA will be in a position to judge the significance of the analysis results.
“At this point, we are still in the middle of a complex inspection process in Iran, in which we are investigating a number of unresolved issues,” she added.