UN seeks Iran nuclear mission


The UN nuclear watchdog wants to send a high-level mission to Iran to address mounting concerns Tehran may be seeking to design atom bombs.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report last week assessing that Iran has been conducting research and experiments geared to developing a nuclear weapons capability has stoked tensions in the Middle East and heightened Western pressure for harsher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has to answer questions over possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme, Yukiya Amano, head of the UN atomic watchdog, said today

"It is clear Iran has a case to answer," Mr Amano told a news conference in Vienna. He said he had been impelled to publish a detailed summary of Iran's possible military nuclear work. "It is my duty to alert the world," he said.

Mr Amano announced his proposal at a meeting of its 35-nation governing board, where six major powers were set to close ranks to express deep concern about Iran's activities and call on it to open up fully to UN inspectors.

Vienna-based Western diplomats said the powers had agreed compromise language for a draft resolution, to be put to governors for approval by t tomorrow, after Western states and Russia overcame divisions sparked by the IAEA's report on Iran.

But the resolution will not satisfy those in the West and in Israel, Iran's arch-enemy, who had hoped Mr Amano's document would trigger concrete international action to rein in Tehran.

Mr Amano said he had written to the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, earlier this month to suggest the visit, which would air issues raised by the hard-hitting IAEA report on Iran.

"Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons is one of the IAEA's core responsibilities," the veteran Japanese diplomat told the closed meeting, according to a copy of his speech.

"Throughout the past three years, we have obtained additional information which gives us a fuller picture of Iran's nuclear programme and increases our concerns about possible military dimensions," Mr Amano said.

"The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," he said, in his toughest public statement so far on Iran's contested nuclear programme.

Iran denies that it is seeking atomic weapons, dismissing intelligence information in the IAEA report as fabricated, and accusing the UN watchdog of pro-Western bias.