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Diplomats Say Iran Producing Gas That Can be Used for Nukes

Western diplomats say Iran is producing large amounts of a gas that can be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The allegation emerged just days before the date Iran has pledged to freeze all such nuclear activities.

The Western diplomats, who asked not to be named, told reporters in Vienna Friday that they are disappointed to find Iran is carrying out uranium processing right up to the deadline. Reuters news agency reports that a non-U.S. diplomat on the board of the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) agency said in an interview: "The Iranians are producing UF6 like hell." He was referring to uranium hexaflouride, a gas that is used to purify uranium for use as a fuel in nuclear plants or in nuclear weapons.

The assertions may put a damper on next week's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors in Vienna. The board will be reviewing Iran's nuclear program in the light of its deal with the EU, announced earlier this week. In its agreement with the EU Iran pledged not to seek nuclear weapons and said it will voluntarily suspend enrichment activities starting next week, for as long as negotiations with the Europeans continue on the exchange of nuclear technology.

A report on Iran prepared for the meeting says Iran has failed in a number of cases over an extended period of time to meet its international obligations with respect to reporting nuclear material, its processing and use as well as the declaration of facilities where such material was processed and stored.

The report complained that Iran has applied restrictions on the agency's use of its own equipment to take photographs and the removal of such material from Iran to Vienna.

The IAEA says it would also like to record its meetings in Iran but Tehran has only agreed to make copies of its own tapes for the IAEA.

The report concludes that, "these constraints have made it more difficult for the agency to conduct subsequent analysis and accurate assessments of the results of meetings in Iran".

The IAEA also says it was unable to resolve issues associated with Iran's centrifuge enrichment program at one site that was interfered with by Tehran in "an attempt to conceal activities carried out there."

Earlier Friday, the head of foreign policy for the European Union, Javier Solana, expressed hope the nuclear agreement with Iran could be the start of a new cooperation for peace. Mr. Solana commented the European Union shares a common goal for Iran:

"One, to cooperate on the peaceful use of nuclear matters; second to cooperate with them on the structures, economic cooperation, trade cooperation; and third, very important, to begin having a dialogue about regional security in which Iran no doubt has a very important role to play," he said.

Iran hopes that its deal with the European Union will mean EU support for it at the IAEA board meeting.