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U.S. questions Iran nuclear report

From CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel

Iran says its nuclear facility at Arak, shown in this satellite photo, is for peaceful, civilian uses only.
Iran says its nuclear facility at Arak, shown in this satellite photo, is for peaceful, civilian uses only.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the first public reaction by the Bush administration to the recently released report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's suspected nuclear program, a senior State Department official has cast serious doubt on the IAEA's conclusions.

"I must say that the report's assertion is simply impossible to believe," Undersecretary of State for Non-proliferation and Arms Control John Bolton said.

"This is not only the administration's view. Thomas Cochran, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the New York Times that it's dumbfounding that the IAEA, after saying that Iran for 18 years had a secret effort to enrich uranium and separate plutonium, would turn around and say there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. If that's not evidence, I don't know what is."

Gary Samore, a former Clinton administration official now with the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, told the London Telegraph that "this is unquestionably a bomb program."

On Monday, the IAEA released a 30-page report that detailed how Iran finally came clean and admitted to producing small amounts of low enriched uranium and plutonium.

But at the same time, the IAEA said there was "no evidence" that these previously undeclared materials were "related to a nuclear weapons program."

In a Wednesday speech, Bolton said the United States did not agree.

"I repeat: The United States believes that the massive and covert Iranian effort to acquire sensitive nuclear capabilities make sense only as part of a nuclear weapons program."

Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

The IAEA's 35-member board of directors is set to meet November 20 to discuss next steps that could include punitive measures by the U.N.'s Security Council if Iran is deemed in non-compliance with a September directive to stop all its reprocessing and enrichment activities. (Full story)

"If Iran takes all the steps called for in the September 12 resolution, that would represent a major advance toward its integration into civilized society. If it is continuing to conceal its nuclear program and has again lied to the IAEA, the international community must be prepared to declare Iran in noncompliance with its IAEA safeguards obligations," Bolton said.

Last week, Iran turned over to the U.N. nuclear agency a document that Tehran said provided full disclosure on its nuclear weapons program. The IAEA Board of Governors had given Iran until October 31 to clear up questions about its program that the nuclear watchdog agency had raised in the past few months. (Full story)

As CNN reported Monday, the IAEA received a letter from the government of Iran in which Iran accepted the draft text of an additional protocol that would allow IAEA inspectors to conduct snap inspections and have unlimited access to Iran's nuclear facilities. (Full story)

In addition, in another move welcomed by the IAEA, Iran informed the IAEA's director general that it had "decided to suspend, with effect from 10 November 2003, all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities in Iran."

However, the IAEA report notes that it will now put Iran's words to the test and "undertake all the steps necessary to confirm that the information provided ... is correct and complete."

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