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Iran claims traces of enriched uranium a 'technical issue'

Jan. 15, 2011: A file photo, shows Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak 150 miles southwest of Tehran, the negotiating stance from Iranian officials never varies: The Islamic Republic will not give up its capabilities to make nuclear fuel.AP

A top Iranian nuclear negotiator said traces of enriched uranium discovered at an underground bunker came from a "routine technical issue," the country's official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran's envoy to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, was responding to a report by the nuclear watchdog in which it said it had found radioactive traces at an Iranian site.

The uranium found was at level that is slightly closer to the threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles than Iran's previous highest-known enrichment grade.

The IAEA said Friday in the report that it was asking Tehran for a full explanation about the traces. But the report was careful to avoid any suggestion that Iran was intentionally increasing the level of its uranium enrichment.

Iran said the find was a technical glitch, according to the report. Analysts and diplomats said Iran's version sounded plausible

Soltanieh said the issue was blown out of proportion for political reasons.

"This issue shows that some intend to damage the existing constructive cooperation between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency," he was quoted as saying.
  The West suspects Iran is pursuing a weapons program. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.