The Jerusalem Post (Link) - Herb Keinon & AP (June 5, 2009)
Breaking with its practice of issuing laconic one or two-line reactions to reports about Iran's nuclear progress, Jerusalem responded Saturday to the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran, which said Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment program despite three sets of UN Security Council sanctions meant to pressure Teheran into freezing such activities.
"The report on Iran again reveals grave findings about intensified uranium enrichment in Iran, thereby violating UN Security Council resolutions, and also other actions which it is possible to connect to a military nuclear program," the statement, issued by the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said.
This is one of the few times that statements about the issue have been issued by this agency.
The agency also said that the report, issued Friday, revealed the inability of the IAEA to effectively supervise the nuclear development in Iran, because of a lack of Iranian cooperation. The report, the statement said, showed that neither the international community, nor Israel, could rely on IAEA supervision inside Iran.
As a result, the statement read, "the international community needs to take immediate and determined action to ensure that Iran cannot manufacture nuclear weapons. The weakness being shown now by the international community allows belligerent policies by countries like North Korea, and that policy is being carefully studied inside Iran," the statement read.
The statement also said that another IAEA report, also issued Friday, detailed new suspicious findings regarding Syria, and slammed Syria's attempts to avoid the IAEA's request to inspect various sites and answer questions.
According to the statement, Syria's stonewalling only strengthens suspicions that Damascus was trying to hide evidence of secret nuclear activity that was taking place at Dir Azur, a remote location destroyed by the IAF in September 2007.
The UN nuclear agency reported its second unexplained find of uranium particles at a Syrian nuclear site, in a probe sparked by suspicions that Dir Azur was a nearly finished plutonium producing reactor. The agency said the newest traces of uranium were found after months of analysis in environmental samples taken last year of a small experimental reactor in Damascus.
The IAEA already reported a similar finding in February 2009 at a separate site - at or near the building bombed by Israel nearly two years ago.
However, the uranium particles discovered during the most recent probe "are of a type not included in Syria's declared inventory of nuclear material," said the report. The particles' origin and potential significance still "needs to be understood," the agency noted.
The report also mentioned that Syria continues to deny that North Korea funded the building of its nuclear reactor.
Iran and Syria are under IAEA investigation - Teheran, since revelations more than six years ago of undeclared nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons, and Syria after Israel bombed a structure in 2007 said by the US to be a reactor built with North Korean help.
But the agency has made little progress for over a year in both cases, and both of the restricted reports made available to The Associated Press on Friday essentially confirmed the status quo - stonewalling by both countries of the two separate IAEA probes.
"In order for the agency to complete its assessment, Syria needs to be more cooperative and transparent," said the IAEA in a document that detailed repeated attempts by agency inspectors to press for renewed inspections and documents - all turned down by Damascus.
Drawing heavily on language of previous reports, the Iran document said Teheran has not "cooperated with the agency ... which gives rise to concerns and which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
The report noted that Teheran continued to rebuff agency efforts to investigate suspicions the Islamic Republic had at least planned to make nuclear weapons.
Without cooperation by the Islamic Republic, the IAEA "will not be in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran," the report said.
Syria and Iran are to come under renewed scrutiny when the 35-nation board of the agency meets June 15 to discuss the two reports.
While the Syrian report was prepared only for the board members, the one on Iran also was transmitted Friday to the Security Council, which for more than three years has tried to pressure Teheran to give up enrichment and other activities of concern.
The IAEA's Iran report reflected continued expansion both in the terms of the equipment in use or being set up and the amount of enriched uranium being turned out by those machines - centrifuges that spin uranium gas into enriched material.
Nearly 5,000 centrifuges were processing uranium gas as of May 31, said the report, while more than 2,000 others were ready for operation. More than nearly 3,000 pounds - 1,300 kilograms - of low enriched uranium had been produced as of that date, said the more than four-page report.
That compares to just over 2,220 pounds (1,000 kg.) mentioned in the last IAEA report in February, an amount that experts and US officials subsequently said was enough to process into enough weapons grade uranium for a nuclear warhead.
Reversing the previous US stance, the Obama administration has said it was ready to talk one-on-one with Iranian officials on the nuclear issue. Obama himself has said Teheran had the right to benefit from nuclear power - as long as all proliferation concerns were put to rest.
But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said his country would not negotiate on its right to enrichment.