A report released Monday by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog organization presents the clearest indication yet that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon through 2003. But there is no evidence that the weapons program continued after 2004, it says, echoing a U.S. intelligence assessment in December.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said its investigation was based on questions raised by its inspections and on allegations from intelligence reports provided by the U.S. and other countries. The IAEA recently presented Iran with documents that depict a clandestine program including uranium enrichment, missile development and plans for fitting missiles with nuclear warheads.
Iran declared that it had answered all of the agency's questions and insisted that the documents were fabricated, but the report scolds Tehran for stonewalling investigators on key issues. The agency said it believes Iran may have additional information, in particular on high-explosives tests and missile-related activities.
The agency also questioned the military's role in manufacturing and procuring parts for the nuclear program, which Iran has declared is for peaceful energy production.
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said the report points to work on a nuclear weapon, but there are elements missing that one would expect to see in such a program.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said the agency found no illicit activities during its visits to Iran's nuclear facilities. The United States failed to co-opt the agency into reaching conclusions that condemn Iran, he told the Associated Press.
The report was circulated to the IAEA board's 35 members and the U.N. Security Council ahead of a board meeting in early June. The Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for defying its demands to stop enriching uranium. But instead of stopping, Iran has added 500 centrifuges since February and is testing a new type that can work five times faster. The process can produce material for a reactor or for a weapon, depending on the level of enrichment.
Monday's report, more than any previous account, makes clear the agency's frustration at not getting clear or timely answers. It includes an annex of the intelligence documents shown to Iran and the questions to which the government had and had not responded.
On May 9, the agency asked Iran to address 11 issues to clarify the nature of its nuclear program. Iran responded with a 10-page document on May 23 that arrived too late to be assessed for inclusion, the report says.
Iran this month sent the U.N. a proposal meant to stave off sanctions and continue an international dialogue, but mainly discussed issues other than the nuclear program, such as poverty and price fluctuations.
The proposal mentions the possible establishment of an international nuclear enrichment consortium in Iran, an idea Tehran has floated before as a way for world powers to gain assurances that Iran wasn't diverting nuclear material to a weapons program.
It also dangled the possibility of a six-month period of targeted negotiations during which Iran would be willing to discuss its nuclear program. But the proposal failed to mention halting enrichment.
Times staff writer Borzou Daragahi in Beirut contributed to this report.