Vienna: The UN nuclear agency on Thursday expressed concern for the first time that Iran may currently be working on ways to turn enriched uranium into a nuclear warhead, instead of having stopped several years ago.
Its report appears to contradict an assessment by Washington that Tehran suspended such activities in 2003. It appears to jibe with the concerns of several US allies that Iran may never have suspended such work.
The US assessment itself may be revised and is currently being looked at again by American intelligence agencies.
In a report prepared for its 35 board nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said that Iran managed to make a minute amount of near 20-percent enriched uranium within days of starting production from lower-enriched material. Higher enrichment puts Iran nearer to the capability of making fissile warhead material, should opt to do so.
Iran denies any interest in developing nuclear arms. But the confidential report said Iran`s resistance to agency attempts to probe for signs of a nuclear cover-up "give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran`s nuclear program."
The language of the report - the first written by Yukiya Amano, who became IAEA head in December - appeared to be more directly critical of Iran`s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA than most previous ones under his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.
US sees many concerns
The US found many worrying revelations in a new report from a global nuclear watchdog on Thursday that for the first time acknowledges Iran could be developing a nuclear warhead.
"A lot of concerning things from this report," US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters in Washington. The US and Western powers have long accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, a claim Iran denies.
"There is no explanation for that facility that is consistent with the needs of a civilian nuclear programme," Crowley said. "And it characterises the way in which Iran has conducted its relations with the IAEA and its failure to satisfactorily explain ... what its activities and ambitions are in the nuclear sphere."
(With Agencies` inputs)