But the telex, sent in 1992 and made public here for the first time, was not what it seemed. The real purchaser was not a university but a secretive research institute working for Iran’s military. The fluorine gas, investigators later concluded, was to be blended with uranium in a nuclear program that would remain hidden for 10 more years.
The document is part a trove of 1,600 formerly secret telexesobtained by nuclear researchersseeking to unearth the early history of Iran’s clandestine pursuit of nuclear technology. While nearly two decades old, the records offer an unusually detailed glimpse into Iran’s alleged efforts to defy sanctions to obtain sensitive technology — tactics that intelligence officials say continue even now.
Experts who studied the documents say they were struck by patterns of behavior that began early in the program and involved some of the same individuals who run the country’s nuclear efforts today, under the oversight of the same supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who came to power in 1989. The telexes and other records show Iranians using subterfuge and deception to obtain the parts they needed, and afterward issuing vigorous denials to U.N. nuclear officials, even when confronted with evidence.
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By REUTERS/Jerusalem Post
Western diplomats say new centrifuges not yet enriching uranium, supply of 20 percent uranium appears constant.
VIENNA – Iran is installing more centrifuges in an underground plant but does not yet appear to be using them to expand higher-grade uranium enrichment that could take it closer to producing atom bomb material, Western diplomats say.
They say Iran’s production of uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, which it started two years ago, seems to have remained steady in recent months after a major escalation of the work in late 2011 and early this year.
Progress in Iran’s controversial nuclear program is closely watched by the West and Israel as it could determine the time the Islamic Republic would need to build nuclear bombs, should it decide to do so.
Getting Iran to stop the higher-level enrichment is expected to be a priority for world powers when they meet with Iran in Baghdad next week in an attempt to start resolving the decade-old dispute over Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
“It is still going strong. I hear it is unchanged,” one diplomat accredited to the UN nuclear watchdog, which regularly inspects Iran’s declared atomic sites, said about the country’s most sensitive nuclear activity.
“But with installation work going on, at some point there will be an increase.”
Tehran took a big step towards the capability of making nuclear weapons material after a previous attempt at diplomacy failed when, spurning UN demands to halt all enrichment, it instead ramped up uranium processing to 20 percent purity.
That provoked the West to impose crushing sanctions on its banks and oil exports.
A UN nuclear report published in February showed Iran trebling output of 20 percent uranium since late 2011 after starting up production at the Fordow underground plant near the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom and later increasing it.
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by Joel Himelfarb - Investigative Project
Iranian and United Nations officials claimed to have made progress in negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program on Tuesday. But initial reports have provided little substantive information beyond an announcement that representatives of the Iranian regime and the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will meet again next week in Vienna, Austria.
Iranian officials waxed optimistic, claiming the West is coming to terms with the inevitability of Iran’s nuclear program. In a New York Times interview, Hamidreza Taraghi, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, bragged that Tehran had managed to skew the current nuclear negotiations in its favor by makinguranium enrichment (a potential path to nuclear weapons) a reality that the West cannot stop.
Taraghi told the Times that Iran had convinced the West of the importance of a fatwaagainst the possession of nuclear weapons that Khamenei issued. Iranian officials emphasized that edict during last month’s negotiations in Istanbul.
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