Nuclear bomb data available on net says Iran

VIENNA - Iran has attempted to play down the importance of information it received from the black market on making the core of a nuclear weapon and said the material was freely available on the internet.

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report that Iran had handed over several pages related to the production of key components of a nuclear weapon.

The United States and European Union said the pages showed Iran's atomic ambitions may include a nuclear arsenal but Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Mohammad Mehdi Akhunzadeh, denied this.

"The information contained in one-and-a-half pages is simple and non-sophisticated information which could be found in (public) literature and on the internet," Akhunzadeh told a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.

He said the documents were "incomplete" and argued that handing the documents to the IAEA was in itself "a clear indication of Iran's full transparency with the IAEA."

But Western diplomats and analysts disagreed.

"The Iranian explanation is laughable and not credible. It's classified information.

It's about metallurgy and how to machine uranium successfully into spheres for a nuclear weapon," William Peden, a Greenpeace nuclear analyst, told Reuters.

A European diplomat pointed out that the internet did not even exist at the time Iran got the documents.

Gregory Schulte, US ambassador to the IAEA, told reporters: "This is not information Iran downloaded from the internet. This is information that they obtained, according to the IAEA, from a nuclear trafficking network that has provided a nuclear weapons design to at least one other country (Libya)."

Iran says it received the documents from an illicit procurement network linked to disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, whose agents met with Iranian officials in 1987 while the Iran-Iraq war was raging.

Tehran says it wants only civilian energy from its nuclear development program.

It acknowledges hiding potentially weapons-related technology from UN inspectors for 18 years until 2003 but says it was given these particular documents without having requested them and did nothing with them.

A European diplomat questioned Iran's claim to transparency and said Iran had claimed for months it had received only a one-page offer after the 1987 meeting with agents of Khan before it suddenly said it had found a large box of documents.

- REUTERS

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