The French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), has published extracts from a French government report detailing attempts by Iran to buy nuclear equipment from a number of countries, including France. The document, confirmed to VOA by François Heisbourg, director of France's Strategic Research Institute, reinforces U.S. suspicions that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, the U.N.'s nuclear monitor, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it is concerned about several aspects of Iran's atomic program after it found traces of enriched uranium in environmental samples from an Iranian nuclear facility.
A day later, the AFP news agency, published extracts of a confidential official document drawn up by a group of French experts on Iran's nuclear procurement program. According to the report, the list of Iranian purchasing attempts in the French nuclear industry, quote, "clearly points to the development of large capacities in terms of reprocessing and spent fuel manipulation."
Reprocessed uranium can be used to make atomic weapons.
François Heisbourg, director of France's Strategic Research Institute, tells VOA the report's conclusions point to a significantly heightened risk of Iran getting the bomb.
"What is new is that the Iranians, aside from going down the uranium enrichment route, which everybody has been talking about and which people are legitimately worried about," he said. "What this says is that the Iranians are also attempting to pursue the reprocessing route. The Iranians are trying to go down both the Hiroshima road and the Nagasaki road: two technically very different approaches, one is through uranium enrichment, the other is through the extraction of plutonium from spent fuel. If the latter is true, and it is certainly the French assessment that it is true, there is not only one basic reason to be worried about the Iranians there are two basic reasons to be worried about the Iranians."
The French government reportedly presented the document to a meeting in South Korea in May of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG, a group of 40 countries seeking to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.
The report, among other things, says Tehran tried to buy 10 high-density radiation shielding windows from a French manufacturer in late 2000. In 2002, the report said, an Iranian company based in the United Arab Emirates tried to buy from another French company 28 remote manipulators, half of which could be used to reprocess and manipulate plutonium.
The report, which was also quoted recently by The Los Angeles Times in its lengthy article on Iran's nuclear program, cautions other governments to exercise, in its words, "the most serious vigilance on their exports to Iran and Iranian front companies."