Allegations that Iran produced high-enriched uranium (HEU) have apparently proven to be false after scientists from France, Japan, Russia, the UK and the USA met during the past nine months to pore over data collected by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA).
According to the Washington Post, the IAEA is understood to have concluded that traces of highly enriched uranium found on centrifuge parts in Iran had entered the country on imported equipment from Pakistan and were not a result of Iranian enrichment activities.
The scientists are said to have recently definitively matched samples of the enriched uranium with centrifuge equipment turned over to inspectors by the government of Pakistan, and Pakistani officials are expected to meet with the IAEA in the coming week in order to determine if Iran was using smuggled Pakistani equipment to make enriched uranium. However, while the HEU issue appears to have been resolved, results of tests on cases of low-enriched uranium (LEU) contamination, also being examined by the IAEA, were said to be less clear-cut.
Traces of HEU found in Iran have been a keystone of US claims that Tehran was developing a nuclear weapons programme and the IAEA findings are expected to be a severe blow to Western hawks who have been pushing for the Islamic republic to be brought before the UN Security Council.
"Accurate scientific investigation by the IAEA has proved that US accusations were unfounded," state-run television quoted Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
The findings are expected to be included in an IAEA report due on 3 September on Iranian compliance with international nuclear safeguards.
However, despite the vindication with regard to HEU, a diplomatic standoff remains between Tehran and the EU3 of France, Germany and the UK. Plans to resume nuclear talks at the end of the month have been suspended following the Iranian decision to resume uranium conversion.
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