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U.N. finds uranium at Iranian nuclear plant

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 27, 2003

VIENNA, Austria - U.N. inspectors found traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium at an Iranian nuclear facility, a report by the U.N. nuclear agency says.

Iran said the traces came with equipment bought abroad decades ago.

The find heightened concerns Tehran might be running a secret nuclear weapons program.

Agency inspectors found "particles" of highly enriched uranium that could be used in a weapons program at the facility at Natanz, said the report prepared for a meeting of the U.N. agency's board Sept. 8 in Vienna. Contents of the report were made known to the Associated Press by unidentified diplomats.

The United States has accused Iran of developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty barring the spread of atomic weapons.

Iran has denied the allegations, insisting its programs are devoted only to generating electricity.

Ali-Akbar Salehi, Tehran's ambassador to the IAEA, said the equipment was "contaminated" with enriched uranium before it was bought by Iran.

Salehi told AP the equipment was "brought many years ago from intermediaries" and so it was impossible to name the countries of origin.

Separately, Salehi said Iran was ready to negotiate an IAEA request that it sign an additional agreement throwing open its nuclear programs to more intrusive inspections.

Salehi said the offer, made Monday, indicates "for the first time . . . that the government of Iran is ready to enter negotiations into the additional protocol."

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