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Wednesday, February 27, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

IAEA Iran assessment, while inconclusive, contradicts U.S. NIE

LONDON — The International Atomic Energy Agency, differing with a U.S. intelligence assessment, has presented evidence that Iran continued its nuclear weapons project.

Western diplomats said the agency has briefed its board of governors on information that relates to Iran's nuclear program, Middle East Newsline reported. The diplomats said documents, many of them provided by the United States and authenticated by IAEA, suggested that Teheran never ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 — as asserted by the U.S. intelligence community.

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"Certainly some of the dates that we were talking about, or that the secretariat was presenting in there, went beyond 2003," Britain's envoy to the IAEA, Simon Smith, said.

In December 2007, the U.S. intelligence community released an unclassified version of its National Intelligence Estimate, which reviewed Iran's nuclear program. The controversial NIE asserted that Teheran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

But on Feb. 25, the agency's board of governors was briefed on material from numerous sources that told of Iran's efforts to design a nuclear warhead. Smith said the nuclear warhead was meant to be installed on the Shihab-3 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which could fly more than 2,000 kilometers.

"The presentation provided detailed work put into the designing of the warhead, studying how that warhead would perform, how it would be detonated and how it would be fitted to a Shihab-3 missile," Smith said. "It was serious and substantial."

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