Iran could be making nuclear warhead, says director of UN watchdog

The Guardian UK (Link) - Julian Borger (February 18, 2010)

The UN�s nuclear watchdog raised concerns for the first time today that Iran might be developing a nuclear warhead for a missile.

In his first report on Iran, the new director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, broke with the more cautious style of his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, and suggested Iran could have looked into the construction of a weapon, and that �weaponisation work could be under way.

Amano�s report to the IAEA board also confirmed that Iran had succeeded in producing 20% enriched uranium, a level of enrichment much closer to weapons grade than it had attempted before. It criticised the Iranian authorities for taking the step without giving IAEA inspectors notice.

Iran�s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said the report confirmed Iran�s �peaceful nuclear activities.� But Amano�s comments on the �possible military dimensions� of the programme are likely to add to the diplomatic pressure on Tehran, as they go further than the official position of US intelligence, that weaponisation work is likely to have been suspended in 2003.

Britain, France and Germany have all distanced themselves from the US assessment, and their intelligence agencies now believe that even if Iranian work on warhead design did stop, it has now resumed. American officials have said informally they agree with that conclusion but have yet to update their official position.

The report said the IAEA�s information �raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.� The wording goes much further than earlier reports by ElBaradei, who repeatedly refrained from explicitly spelling out the implications of evidence on weapons-building his inspectors had gathered.

The Foreign Office said: �The IAEA�s charge sheet against Iran is getting longer and longer with each report.�