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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran: Nuclear Failures Insignificant

VIENNA, Austria/TEHRAN, Iran -- A senior Iranian official said Tuesday that Tehran's failure to declare past nuclear activities detailed in a new report by the UN's nuclear watchdog were "insignificant," Iran's state television reported.

"The failures attributed to Iran are insignificant and are at the level of gram and microgram of nuclear materials," state television quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, as saying.

The IAEA said in a 30-page report that it had not so far found evidence of an atomic bomb program in Iran, but Tehran had dabbled in activity often associated with bombs like plutonium production and uranium enrichment.

In decades of clandestine atomic research, Iran received help from sources in four countries with sensitive technology that could be used to develop weapons, the UN nuclear watchdog says in a confidential report.

The countries were not identified.

The United States has long accused Iran of using a civilian nuclear energy program as a front to build a bomb. Iran denies this and says it was forced to hide some nuclear activities because of decades of sanctions, which it says were illegal.

"Iran acknowledged that, starting in the 1970s, it had had contracts related to laser [uranium] enrichment with foreign sources from four countries," the IAEA said its report.

Although it did not name the countries, diplomats have said Pakistan, a nuclear weapons state that has opted out of signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, was almost certainly one.

Enrichment involves purifying uranium to make it usable as nuclear fuel or in weapons. It can be done with centrifuges that separate the fissile uranium atoms through high-speed spinning, or with lasers.

"This is a very stiffly worded report that shows clear noncompliance by the Iranians," a Western diplomat said. But he said it was unclear if France, Germany and Britain would want to anger Iran by supporting a verdict of noncompliance when the board meets on Nov. 20 to discuss the Iran report.

On Oct. 21, the European Union's three biggest states agreed with Iran that Tehran would suspend its uranium enrichment program and sign a protocol permitting more intrusive, short-notice IAEA inspections.

On Monday, Tehran announced it had fulfilled its end of the deal. Diplomats said France, Germany and Britain were now bound by a tacit agreement not to support a U.S.-backed noncompliance vote.

The IAEA made it clear it was still engaged in an inspection process and the jury was still out on whether Iran had at some point in the past attempted to secretly develop an atomic bomb as Washington alleges.

"To date there is no evidence that [Iran's] previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons program," it said.

"However, given Iran's past pattern of concealment, it will take some time before the agency is able to conclude that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

A European diplomat said that the results of Iran's recent disclosure of activities, many commonly connected to bomb making, were "a very serious matter."