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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks: Iran and Syria lied to IAEA about nuke plants

From The Guardian:
Iranian officials withheld from international atomic energy inspectors the original design documents for a secret nuclear reactor suspected of being part of Tehran's plan to build an atomic bomb, a US embassy cable reveals.

The secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was denied the blueprints when in October 2009 its inspection team visited the part-built facility in a mountainside at Fordow near Qom. It was instead provided with designs that showed only what was already built.

Providing a picture of Iranian obstruction to the visit, Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA's deputy director general who led the inspection, revealed that Iranian officials were "steered by unseen observers who send notes to the Iranian interlocutors during meetings" and insisted on tape recording the meetings but refused to allow the IAEA to do the same.

According to the secret cable back to Washington the inspectors were "not impressed" by the Iranians' continued refusal to elaborate on their denials of evidence pointing to the nuclear programme's military intent.

"The secretariat was still trying to understand ... why Iran would build this facility, scaled as it was for 3,000 centrifuges in contrast to the much larger Natanz facility," Nackaerts told Richard Kessler and David Fite, senior staff members of the US house of representatives foreign affairs committee, in a 90-minute meeting in Vienna.

The IAEA believed there was "a high-level decision not to co-operate" with the inspection, Nackaerts said, and Iran's denials had left the agency at "an absolute stalemate" with Tehran over the military application of its nuclear programme.

Iran insists the facility is for purely civilian purposes. It told IAEA inspectors during the four-day visit that documentary evidence its nuclear scientists had obtained "green salt", an intermediate product in uranium enrichment for nuclear reactor or bomb material, was forged. It said a document about uranium metal describing the process of machining hemispheres of the kind used in nuclear warheads was "mistakenly" included in a packet of information Iran received from the network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist believed by the US to be a serious proliferation risk because of his previous trading in nuclear weapons technology.

Nackaerts challenged the Iranians to prove the evidence was bogus. He "asked that, if some of the documentation were 'doctored', Iranian officials should show the [IAEA] secretariat 'where the truth ends.' "
In the very same leaked cable, we see details on how Syria stonewalled the IAEA investigation on the nuclear plant that Israel bombed in Dair Alzour in 2008:

9. (SBU) The Syria case, Nackaerts said, was starting to look like Iran in that the government provided "good cooperation" on some areas but presented a "stalemate" on others. The Secretariat challenged Syria's proposed explanation for the presence of uranium at Dair Alzour/Al Kibar (i.e., that Israeli depleted uranium munitions could be the source), but the inquiry was at a roadblock. Syrian officials had been told their first explanation for anthropogenic uranium at the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) was not credible, and the Agency had inquired what nuclear material Syria could have had that was not previously declared. Overall, the IAEA still "did not understand" (meaning, it could not yet present the solid case for) how Dair Alzour fit in as part of a Syrian nuclear program "or part of someone else's program."
Syria was taking a page out of Iran's playbook, and apparently it is as successful in stonewalling the IAEA without much fear for significant sanctions.

(h/t Emet)