Vienna: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) increased its pressure on Iran to prove it had not done work related to nuclear weapons, in a report published on Friday that confirmed a slight decrease in the country's enrichment activities.
In his latest report, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei also said Iran had partly improved its cooperation with the Vienna-based agency by allowing better monitoring at its controversial enrichment facility in Natanz, and by granting a visit to a research reactor that is under construction.
The report came as the September deadline set by the United States to pressure Iran into agreeing to nuclear talks draws close and Western countries are set to consider new sanctions.
It remained to be seen whether Tehran's partial increased transparency would last, a senior official close to the IAEA said.
Whether Iran allows a further visit to the Arak reactor "will be the proof of the pudding”, he said.
Regarding the weapons studies, IAEA inspectors have received intelligence information from a number of countries they consider "generally consistent", which includes indications Iran has worked on detonators and the modification of a missile which could be related to a nuclear warhead.
ElBaradei's report made clear that although Iran publicly claims that these intelligence documents are forgeries, it has acknowledged some of this work but says it was not related to building an atomic bomb.
"So there is a real basis in the documentation," the senior official said.
"In the light of the above, the agency has repeatedly informed Iran that it does not consider that Iran has adequately addressed the substance of the issues (...)," ElBaradei concluded in the report issued to all IAEA member states.
Concerning uranium enrichment, the IAEA said some 4,600 centrifuges were operating in Natanz on August 12, 300 fewer than reported in the previous June report.
Officials gave no explanation about this first such decrease in three years.
However, 3,716 additional centrifuges have been installed which Iran is planning to use for enrichment as well in the future.
While Tehran says it is enriching uranium to fuel its unfinished power plant in Busher, the UN Security Council has passed sanctions to pressure the country to halt producing material that could also be used to make nuclear weapons if processed further.
Along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, the US has offered Iran a package of economic and political incentives in return for concessions on its nuclear programme.
The Western countries among this group are considering pushing for additional sanctions if no positive signal is forthcoming from Tehran.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that the international community would consider placing restrictions on the Iranian energy sector, including its fuel imports.
The IAEA also issued a report on Syria, which ElBaradei said was not fully cooperating in clearing up questions about a possible secret nuclear reactor that was bombed by Israel in 2007.
Damascus claims it cannot give the Vienna-based inspectors additional access because the al-Kibar site was a conventional military installation.
But ElBaradei wrote that this argument was not valid under Syria's wide-ranging inspection agreement with his organisation, as it does not limit "agency access to information, activities or locations simply because they may be military-related."
Damascus has allowed the IAEA to sample some additional nuclear materials in the country which are currently being analysed.
The US has provided the nuclear agency with intelligence concerning the al-Kibar site and has said the secret reactor there was nearly completed when it was bombed.
First Published: Saturday, August 29, 2009, 09:49