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September 11, 2011

IAEA Chief 'Concerned' About Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency says he is "increasingly concerned" about new intelligence on Iran's controversial nuclear program.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said Monday, at the start of a five-day board meeting, that the agency is worried about Tehran's possible warhead experiments.

He added that while Iran had shown "greater transparency" than usual, it was not providing the U.N. agency with the "necessary cooperation" on nuclear matters.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Tehran for its uranium enrichment activities and lack of cooperation with international inspectors.  Iran says its nuclear program is devoted only to the generation of energy.

For the past nine years, Tehran has failed to provide the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency with the requested guarantees that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran on Monday marked the delayed launch of its Bushehr nuclear power station - the first in the country. Iranian energy officials and their Russians counterparts attended the ceremony.

The plant had missed its late August start-up date due to delays Iranian lawmakers blame on the plant's Russian builders. Last week, Iranian officials said the Bushehr plant had been connected to the national electricity grid with a power of about 60 megawatts.

The IAEA's 35-member board is expected to approve steps to boost global nuclear safety standards during this week's meeting in Vienna, although some diplomats reportedly fear the proposed regulations may be watered down. The European Union has also ordered so-called stress tests for all the region's nuclear reactors.

Amano gave an update on the Fukushima disaster in Japan, saying the Japanese reactors are "essentially stable," six months after the tsunami-caused breakdown.

The IAEA board is also discussing possible nuclear proliferation activities by Syria and North Korea.   On Syria, Amano said the country had offered to cooperate with U.N. nuclear inspectors.  He said a meeting on the issue was proposed for October.

Earlier this year the IAEA concluded that it was "very likely" that Syria's Dair Alzour complex was intended to be an undeclared nuclear reactor.  Israel bombed the site to rubble in 2007.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

 

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