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IAEA Considers Action on Countries' Failure to Report Nuclear Activities - 2004-09-11

The International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meets behind closed doors Monday to discuss whether failures by Iran and South Korea to fully declare nuclear experiments should go to the United Nations Security Council.

It was only last year that the IAEA learned of Iran's ambitious nuclear program, which had been kept secret from the world for almost two decades.

Since then, the U.N. nuclear watchdog has struggled to assess whether Tehran's nuclear capability is part of a concerted plan to build nuclear weapons.

A resolution passed by the IAEA board in June complained that Iran had not declared equipment for a nuclear research reactor that could produce bomb grade plutonium.

The IAEA says there are indications that plutonium already produced by Iran is more recent than Tehran claims.

The IAEA says that in some cases, despite repeated requests, information was provided by Tehran too late to be analyzed for next week's meeting.

An internal IAEA report mentions one site that was considered relevant to Tehran's nuclear activities that was razed to the ground by Iranian authorities.

The IAEA says Iran refused to give the agency a list of equipment used at the center, citing security reasons. In June, Iran removed IAEA seals on sensitive equipment with the knowledge of, but in the absence of, international inspectors. Iran returned the seals to the IAEA and announced it would restart the manufacture, testing and assembly of nuclear equipment that can be used in a civilian or a military program.

For the United States and other countries such as Canada and Australia the failure to report activities in accordance with international treaty obligations should be reported to the United Nations Security Council.

But the 35-nation IAEA board includes allies of Iran from the Non-Aligned countries and Europeans who prefer bargaining over confrontation with Tehran.

The IAEA will also hear an initial report on South Korea's recent admission that it had produced plutonium in the 1980s and carried on uranium enrichment without the knowledge of the agency.

Shahram Chubin, Director of Research at the Geneva Center for Security Policy says this issue poses a problem.

"I think there is a real danger this thing is getting out of hand because when the South Koreans turn round and say that they feel that this whole question of enrichment, enriched uranium coming from abroad is rather oppressive and expensive for them and they'd like to be able to do it themselves, well that's the sort of thing that is particularly worrisome because the U.S. is trying to cut off enrichment to any country that doesn't have it yet"," he said.

The United States has said there can be no double standards and the South Korean case should be reported to the U.N. Security Council.