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IAEA Protests "Erroneous" US Report on Iran


By Mark Heinrich
Reuters
Thursday 14 September 2006

Vienna - U.N. inspectors have protested to the U.S. government and a Congressional committee about a report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous and dishonest", according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

The letter recalled clashes between the IAEA and the Bush administration before the 2003 Iraq war over findings cited by Washington about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that proved false, and underlined continued tensions over Iran's dossier.

Sent to the head of the House of Representatives' Select Committee on Intelligence by a senior aide to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, the letter said an August 23 committee report contained serious distortions of IAEA findings on Iran's activity.

The letter said the errors suggested Iran's nuclear fuel program was much more advanced than a series of IAEA reports and Washington's own intelligence assessments have determined.

It said the report falsely described Iran to have enriched uranium at its pilot centrifuge plant to weapons-grade level in April, whereas IAEA inspectors had made clear Iran had enriched only to a low level usable for nuclear power reactor fuel.

"Furthermore, the IAEA Secretariat takes strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion" that the IAEA opted to remove a senior safeguards inspector for supposedly concluding the purpose of Iran's program was to build weapons, it said.

The letter said the congressional report contained "an outrageous and dishonest suggestion" that the inspector was dumped for having not adhered to an alleged IAEA policy barring its "officials from telling the whole truth" about Iran.

Diplomats say the inspector remains IAEA Iran section head.

The IAEA has been inspecting Iran's nuclear program since 2003. Although it has found no hard evidence that Iran is working on atomic weapons, it has uncovered many previously concealed activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process of purifying fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said: "We felt obliged to put the record straight with regard to the facts on what we have reported on Iran. It's a matter of the integrity of the IAEA."

Diplomats say Washington, spearheading efforts to isolate Iran with sanctions over its nuclear work, has long perceived ElBaradei to be "soft" on Tehran.

"This (committee report) is deja vu of the pre-Iraq war period where the facts are being maligned and attempts are being made to ruin the integrity of IAEA inspectors," said a Western diplomat familiar with the agency and IAEA-U.S. relations.

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