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IAEA:  Many Open Questions Remain about Iran's Nuclear Activities - 2004-06-02

The International Atomic Energy Agency says there are many open questions about Iran's nuclear program which the United States sees as a front to build nuclear weapons. But Iran has welcomed the IAEA's latest report and says it hopes the issue of its nuclear program will be closed this month.

A confidential report circulated to IAEA board members says investigators are not satisfied with Iranian explanations of the origin of some specialized equipment and the weapons-grade nuclear contamination found on it. The report says the investigators are seeking more information from Iran and from another unnamed country that may have supplied the equipment, sophisticated centrifuges for refining nuclear material.

In addition, the IAEA report says Iran now admits it imported the centrifuges from Asia. Previously, Iran said the equipment had been made inside Iran.

The report was prepared for the IAEA board, which is to discuss Iran again at its next meeting in two weeks. IAEA spokesman, Mark Gwozdecky, says the report indicates there is more work to do on Iran's nuclear program

"The report shows that we've made a good deal of progress, we're getting the pieces of the puzzle together, but the picture is not yet complete," he said.

The IAEA report refers to a number of discrepancies and unanswered questions. The report says nuclear inspectors found that uranium-enrichment levels were higher than accounts given by Iranian scientists and that Iran had underestimated the amounts of plutonium it had produced.

On Tuesday, before the report was leaked to the media, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told the Associated Press the United States is convinced Iran is continuing to pursue a secret program to acquire nuclear weapons.

As part of its negotiations with the IAEA, Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program. But the new report says it is difficult to verify the extent to which Iran has done that because private Iranian companies have continued to produce centrifuge components.

A western diplomat in Vienna, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there are many alarming points in the report. The diplomat said Tehran is continuing with its 20-year-long pattern of deception and deceit.

Another Vienna-based western diplomat said each Iranian nuclear report is like peeling an onion, exposing more slices of the truth.

In Tehran Wednesday, Iran's chief negotiator with the IAEA, Hassan Rohani, welcomed the report. Mr. Rohani said the report shows there are, in his words, no more important issues unsettled regarding Iran's nuclear program. He said the controversy over Iran's nuclear program should be drawing to an end.

Iran says it is fully co-operating with the IAEA and it wants the board to close the file on its nuclear program at this month's meeting.

On Tuesday, the IAEA Chairman Mohamed ElBaradei said "the jury is out" on whether Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, as Iran claims.