IAEA protests "erroneous" U.S. report on Iran
By Mark Heinrich
09/14/06 - --VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. inspectors have protested
to the U.S. government and a Congressional committee about a
report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous
according to a letter obtained by Reuters.
The letter recalled clashes between the IAEA and the Bush
administration before the 2003 Iraq war over findings cited by
Washington about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that proved
false, and underlined continued tensions over Iran's dossier.
Sent to the head of the House of Representatives' Select
Committee on Intelligence by a senior aide to International
Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, the letter said an
August 23 committee report contained serious distortions of IAEA
findings on Iran's activity.
The letter said the errors suggested Iran's nuclear fuel program
was much more advanced than a series of IAEA reports and
Washington's own intelligence assessments have determined.
It said the report falsely described Iran to have enriched
uranium at its pilot centrifuge plant to weapons-grade level in
April, whereas IAEA inspectors had made clear Iran had enriched
only to a low level usable for nuclear power reactor fuel.
"Furthermore, the IAEA Secretariat takes strong exception to the
incorrect and misleading assertion" that the IAEA opted to
remove a senior safeguards inspector for supposedly concluding
the purpose of Iran's program was to build weapons, it said.
The letter said the congressional report contained "an
outrageous and dishonest suggestion" that the inspector was
dumped for having not adhered to an alleged IAEA policy barring
its "officials from telling the whole truth" about Iran.
Diplomats say the inspector remains IAEA Iran section head.
The IAEA has been inspecting Iran's nuclear program since 2003.
Although it has found no hard evidence that Iran is working on
atomic weapons, it has uncovered many previously concealed
activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process of purifying
fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said: "We felt obliged to put
the record straight with regard to the facts on what we have
reported on Iran. It's a matter of the integrity of the IAEA."
Diplomats say Washington, spearheading efforts to isolate Iran
with sanctions over its nuclear work, has long perceived
ElBaradei to be "soft" on Tehran.
"This (committee report) is deja vu of the pre-Iraq war period
where the facts are being maligned and attempts are being made
to ruin the integrity of IAEA inspectors," said a Western
diplomat familiar with the agency and IAEA-U.S. relations.
© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.
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