The announcement was made at a private briefing by the International Atomic Energy Agency's top security expert to diplomats in Vienna. The findings show that Iran continued to work on plans for a nuclear weapon for months after U.S. intelligence said that the Iranians had halted development on such weapons.
Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's deputy director general, was elaborating on a public report released Feb. 22 that questioned whether Iran had come fully clean about its nuclear past. In the report, the watchdog agency said Tehran had not credibly explained documents that appeared to point to research programs devoted to uranium processing, high explosives and missiles design -- all of which can be used in making nuclear weapons. Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and has dismissed the documents as fakes.
In the technical briefing Monday with diplomats from IAEA member states, Heinonen offered new details about the Iranian documents, according to notes obtained by The Washington Post. He revealed that the IAEA had collected corroborating evidence, from the intelligence agencies of several countries, that pointed to sophisticated research into some key technologies needed to build and deliver a nuclear bomb.
Some documents showed research into modification of Iran's Shahab missile series, enabling them to detonate 600 meters above targets, which would only make sense, according to the experts, if the missile was carrying a nuclear warhead.
The discovery of these documents makes Iranian claims that they are working on an atomic energy program only to be used for peaceful purposes less credible, and more difficult for the international community to take their word that they are not currently researching and designing a way to deliver nuclear warheads to distant targets. Mohammad Khazee, Iran's UN ambassador, stated that the claims by the IAEA were "baseless," and repeated the Iranian position of denial that they had ever been researching a nuclear weapons program.
The UN Security Council is expected to vote tomorrow on a third set of resolutions which would impose financial sanctions and travel sanctions on Iranian individuals and businesses, which are intended to pressure a halt to Iran's programs to enrich uranium, which is used in the development of nuclear weaponry.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iranian Security Council diplomat and top Iranian envoy to the IAEA, responded angrily after the briefing last week that the documents could have been obtained by any college student for "$100," and "that the IAEA had exceeded its mandate as a technical agency by engaging in intelligence activities."
More Iranian denials and reactions are expected tomorrow after the Security Council vote.