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Iran: UN concern, removal of seals on uranium site

UN officials concerned at Iran’s removal of seals on uranium enrichment sites

11 January 2006 – Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today voiced concern about Iran’s removal of seals that block the use of equipment and material related to uranium enrichment, saying that the nature of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions remains unclear.

IAEA inspectors predict that Agency seals at the Natanz facility and two related storage and testing locations, Pars Trash and Farayand Technique, will be completely removed by the end of today.

The Director General of the Vienna-based Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, expressed his “serious concern about Iran’s decision to unravel the suspension of enrichment-related activities requested by the IAEA Board of Governors before the Agency has clarified the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

He recalled that although the Agency has been investigating Iran’s nuclear programme for three years, a number of important issues remain unresolved due to the “less than full and prompt transparency on the part of Iran.”

Maintaining the suspension, resuming the dialogue with all concerned parties, and providing the necessary cooperation and transparency to the IAEA are conditions for a comprehensive and equitable solution that ensures Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear activities while assuring the international community of the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme, Mr. ElBaradei said.

In New York, a spokesman for the Secretary-General said he is “very concerned” by Iran’s decision to resume nuclear research.

Answering press questions, spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that the Secretary-General has spoken frequently in recent days with Mr. ElBaradei, and the two remain in close touch.

The Secretary-General is mindful and appreciative of the efforts of France, Germany and the United Kingdom – the so-called “EU-3” – as well as Russia to find a diplomatic solution to this issue, Mr. Dujarric said, noting that those countries remain clearly in the lead on this issue.

The latest development follows a request by Iran last week that the IAEA lift the seals, which covered centrifuge components, special steel, high strength aluminium and centrifuge quality control and manufacturing equipment, as well as two cylinders containing UF6 located at Natanz. UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, which flows through the centrifuges in the enrichment process.

The seals also covered some process equipment at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz.

Iran’s Safeguards Agreement under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) authorizes the IAEA to “apply its seals and other identifying and tamper-indicating devices” as needed.

The Government said it is conducting small-scale “research and development” which required the use of the UF6 gas and centrifuges. It said these activities may also include the manufacturing of a limited number of new components, according to the IAEA.

Despite the seals’ removal, some IAEA containment and surveillance measures will continue at the Natanz facility, the agency said.

Enriched uranium can be used for peaceful purposes such as generating energy or for making nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and insists that its programme is solely for civilian energy production but some countries, including the United States, contend that Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran suspended all uranium enrichment and reprocessing in 2004 in the so-called Paris agreement for talks with the EU-3 to resolve issues arising out of the disclosure that it had for almost two decades concealed its nuclear activities in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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