VIENNA, Austria – A report by the U.N. nuclear agency leaked to the press on Thursday shows Iran has slowed nuclear enrichment work over the past month but continues experiments with the technology that world powers fear might be misused to make nuclear arms.
The confidential report, which was circulated among the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35 member nations, also indicated that nuclear inspectors have made little progress on clearing up other worrying aspects of Tehran's past nuclear activity.
Specifically, the three-page report said Iran still had declined to answer requests to clarify statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that his country had experimented with advanced centrifuges that speed up enrichment,
Iran also has refused to provide extra information on a document showing how to compress fissile material into the shape of warheads, said the report. As well, it declined requests for key interviews of nuclear officials linked to potentially worrying finds by IAEA inspectors, and had not met additional requests for more information on an experimental enrichment project and tests and documents that could heave nuclear weapons applications.
A senior U.N. official familiar with the report, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing its confidential contents, said it contained nothing that significantly hardens or diminishes concerns about its nuclear ambitions since the last IAEA report in late April.
The report, by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei was prepared for Monday's board meeting of the agency and amid delicate diplomatic maneuvering by six world powers focused on enticing Tehran into negotiations aimed at ultimately persuading it to give up enrichment domestically.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana earlier this week gave Iranian officials a package of potential rewards if Tehran cooperates was given to senior Iranian officials. Initial Iranian reaction has been mixed. Officials there said they would look at the proposals but indicated they were not prepared to give up enrichment totally.
While the report said that "Iran is continuing work" on setting up enrichment facilities in addition to one it used to process uranium gas through 164 centrifuges in April, it suggested such activities had slowed before Tuesday, when it resumed larger-scale work using those 164 machines.
While the slowdown could reflect a decision by Iran to send a positive signal to the six nations hoping for new talks on the issue, the senior U.N. official said other reasons -- including possible technical difficulties -- could have accounted for the lessened enrichment activity.