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Highly Enriched Uranium Traces Discovered in Iran by Inspectors

By Felicity Barringer

The New York Times -- UNITED NATIONS

International inspectors have found traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian facility, according to a new confidential report distributed on Tuesday. The traces could be an indication that Tehran has already produced weapons-grade nuclear materials.

Iran denied producing nuclear materials, said the report, by the International Atomic Energy Association, the conclusions of which were obtained by The New York Times. The report added, “Additional work is also required to enable the agency to arrive at conclusions about Iran’s statements that there have been no uranium enrichment activities in Iran involving nuclear material.”

The Iranians, the report said, explained that the trace particles found by inspectors at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant had been on the equipment when it was purchased from another country.

The report added that “Iran has agreed to provide the agency with all information about the centrifuge components and other contaminated equipment it obtained from abroad, including their origin and the locations where they have been stored and used in Iran.”

John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was in Moscow and Paris this week to discuss Iran, as well as the continuing standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program. Philip T. Reeker, a spokesman for the State Department, said, “We have real concerns about this, and it’s part of our broad dialogue with Russia on many things.”

The next meeting of the agency’s board of governors is scheduled to begin Sept. 8. At their most recent meetings the members of the board decided to press Iran both to sign an additional protocol and to provide the inspectors with additional information and access and allow them to test Tehran’s claim that its program is a purely civilian effort to increase the country’s energy capacity.