|The Iranian government says it was right, and the U.S. was wrong, about why traces of highly enriched uranium were discovered on some of its nuclear equipment. |
The Iranian government claims it has been vindicated over a key accusation involving its nuclear intentions. An international panel of scientists has reportedly concluded that traces of weapons-grade uranium found in Iran two years ago came from imported equipment rather than from Iranian nuclear activity.
The findings are reported by the Washington Post and the Associated Press, both citing unnamed Western diplomats. But U.S. officials are skeptical. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Tehran has a history of misleading statements about its nuclear program. "They said, first of all, we don't have an enrichment program. And then, well, yes, we do have an enrichment program, but we didn't have any external help."
It turns out they did have help, from Pakistan. In fact the new findings appear to support Iran's claim that the enriched uranium found on its equipment, came into the country with centrifuge parts provided by Pakistan.
U.S. officials caution that many questions remain, including Tehran's possible pursuit of plutonium, and the Iranian military's role in the nuclear program. Tehran has repeatedly stated its nuclear program is only for producing power. But given the country's huge oil and gas reserves, U.S. officials maintain the Iranians are up to something else. "We think that they, and we believe that they are developing, they are pursuing a nuclear weapon," Sean McCormack remarked.
Many Iranians believe their country has every right to develop a nuclear energy program. Hundreds of students rallied Tuesday, marching on the embassies of France, Britain and Germany.
They were protesting the Europeans' call for Iran to permanently freeze uranium enrichment. Meantime the French announced the Europeans are canceling next week's scheduled negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, because of Tehran's decision to resume uranium conversion earlier this month.
The Europeans had hoped Iran would agree to restrict its nuclear program, in exchange for economic incentives.