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IAEA removes seals from Iran nuke sites: Diplomats

The removal of cameras and seals were demanded by Tehran in response to its referral to the UN Security Council.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 16:57 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

Inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog agency have stripped most surveillance cameras and agency seals from Iranian nuclear sites and equipment.

Theremoval of cameras and seals weredemanded by Tehran in response to its referral to the UN Security Council.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for revealing the confidential developments, said on Saturday that the move was part of retaliatory measures announced by Iran that have left the International Atomic Energy Agency with only the most basic means to monitor Iran's nuke activities.

It came as Iran's president suggested his country might even pull out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which North Korea left three years shortly before it went public with its nuclear weapons programme.

With most surveillance equipment and seals from Iran's nascent uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz now removed - and Iran recently ending the agency's rights to in-depth nuclear probes at short notice - the IAEA has few means to monitor the progress of Tehran's enrichment efforts, which can create either nuclear fuel or the fissile core of warheads.

It also is crippled its efforts to look for secret sites and experiments that could be linked to nuclear arms.

The agency still has some seals and equipment at Natanz and Isfahan, where Iran is converting raw uranium into the feedstock gas for enrichment under basic agreements that are linked to Iran's ratification of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Still, with those agreements only meant to monitor Iran's declared and existing nuclear stocks, they are considered inadequate in the agency's ongoing efforts to establish whether the country has tried to develop a nuclear weapons programme at undeclared facilities.

A diplomat familiar with IAEA efforts in Iran said the cameras and seals were removed within "the last day or so" by a team of inspectors now in Iran in compliance with a written Iranian demand presented to the agency less than a week ago.

That request to IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei came two days after IAEA's 35-nation board of governors reported Tehran to the Security Council February 4 over its decision to resume enrichment activity and suspicions that its atomic programme represented a threat to world peace. Iran also announced a sharp reduction in the number and kind of IAEA inspections.

Iranian officials had repeatedly warned they would stop honouring the so-called "Additional Protocol" to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty if the IAEA board referred their country to the council.

The Additional Protocol had given the agency extra inspecting powers that allowed for inspections on short notice of areas and programmes suspected of being misused for weapons activity.

First Published: Feb 12, 2006 08:50 IST