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Iran rejects 'suspicious' report of enriched uranium find

Iran on Saturday denounced as "suspicious and vague" western media reports that UN inspectors had found enriched uranium in environmental samples taken in the country, IRNA reported from Tehran.

"This type of forged news is suspicious and vague, since it is up to the International Atomic Energy Agency to make comments on this issue, and not diplomats who have no accurate information about it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

Reuters on Friday cited unnamed diplomats as alleging that samples taken from a nuclear facility in Natanz, central Iran, showed Tehran has been enriching uranium without informing the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Asefi said, "The Natanz facility has not become operational yet. Thus, the claim of enriched uranium (to have been found) there is totally meaningless."

The official stressed that the facility is "under the IAEA safeguards and supervision and no clandestine activity is taking place there".

"This saying that the samples taken show levels of enrichment is very questionable and we expect this issue will be clarified in our dialogue with the (International Atomic Energy) Agency," Asefi added.

The IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, denied reports that experts had determined that enriched uranium was found in the samples. He described the reports as "pure speculation at this stage," Associated Press said.

"We are not in any way ready to come up with a conclusion on that issue before we discuss all the results with the Iranian authorities," AP cited him in Vienna as saying.

IAEA so far has been resisting taking its cue from Washington which pressuring the international atomic watchdog to declare Tehran in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a party.

US alleges that the Islamic Republic may use its nuclear energy program for building atomic bombs. Tehran strongly rejects this, saying the program is a far-sighted scheme, aimed at generating electricity in the next 20 years, when the country's oil and gas reserves become overstretched.

Iran's nuclear energy program dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when the former Pahlavi regime was a US ally.

Russia, which is helping Iran to build a light water nuclear energy plant in southern Bushehr, has said that American pressures were irrelevant in the context as brought up, and intended to deprive Russian firms from lucrative ventures in the Islamic Republic.

On Saturday, a new team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency started its tour of Iranian nuclear facilities, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman, Khalil Mousavi said.

They arrived on the heels of another IAEA team who were in Iran since ElBaradei's July 10 visit to the Islamic Republic. They left Tehran on Wednesday, Mousavi said.

"The new team's visit is following a schedule, drawn up before and their work is to visit Iran's nuclear equipment in line with the NPT," he added.

... Payvand News - 7/19/03 ... --

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