June 6, 2011 / 10:11 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 4-IAEA fears recent Iran military-linked atom work

* IAEA is voicing growing concern about Iran nuclear work

* U.N. agency wants prompt access to sites and officials

* Iran denies military aims, rebuffs cooperation request

(Adds Soltanieh, MP quotes)

By Fredrik Dahl and Sylvia Westall

VIENNA, June 6 (Reuters) - Iran seems to have carried out nuclear-related activities with possible military links until recently, the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said on Monday, citing new information adding to concerns about Tehran’s work.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made clear in a speech to the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board his growing frustration at the Islamic state’s failure to answer agency queries about its nuclear programme.

His remarks are likely to be welcomed by Western powers as a sign that he is gradually ratcheting up the pressure on Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, dismissed Amano’s statement that the agency had recently received more information about possible undisclosed nuclear activities as “obsolete, boring things”.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop the means to make an atomic bomb. Iran rejects the accusation, saying its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.

For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone so it can take a nuclear warhead.

Western diplomats believe Amano is in effect warning Tehran to cooperate or face a possible assessment by the IAEA on the likelihood it has conducted nuclear activity with possible military aspects. Such an assessment could lend weight to any renewed Western push to tighten sanctions on Iran.

Amano said the U.N. agency had received “further information related to possible past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities that seem to point to the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme”.

LETTER DIPLOMACY

He later told a news conference, without disclosing the source of the information: “The activities in Iran related to the possible military dimension seem to have ... continued until quite recently.”

Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, activity which can have both civilian and military uses, has been met with four rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006.

The Japanese IAEA chief has taken a blunter approach than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei towards the Islamic state.

Amano said he had written last month to the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, “reiterating the agency’s concerns about the existence of possible military dimensions”.

He had also asked for Iran to “provide prompt access” to locations, equipment, documentation and officials to help resolve the agency’s queries.

In his May 26 letter to Amano, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Friday, Abbasi-Davani reiterated Iran’s position that the allegations were fabricated, and said U.N. sanctions resolutions against the country were “illegal and unacceptable”.

Amano made clear that Iran’s response had not been satisfactory, saying he had sent a new letter to Abbasi-Davani on June 3 “in which I reiterated the agency’s requests to Iran”.

The IAEA, tasked with ensuring that nuclear technology is not diverted for military aims, says Iran has not engaged with the agency in substance on the issue of possible military aspects to Iran’s nuclear programme since mid-2008.

Soltanieh, Iran’s IAEA envoy, denounced the nuclear allegations against his country as “ridiculous” and baseless.

“I think after over eight years it is time to stop this boring, repetitive, politicised debate here,” he told reporters.

In Tehran, a parliamentarian accused the IAEA of “trying to serve America’s interests,” ISNA news agency said.

“The continuation of this kind of behaviour ... will harm relations between Iran and the agency,” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, added. (Additional reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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