Russia, China pressuring IAEA on Iran: diplomats

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Russia and China are leaning on the UN atomic agency to soften or not issue a report expected in two weeks detailing Iran's suspected efforts to develop nuclear weapons, diplomats told AFP on Tuesday.

"It does seem like the Russians and Chinese are pressuring the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to refrain from reporting on the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme," one Western diplomat said.

Another Western envoy to the Vienna-based body said however that they expected the IAEA's Japanese head, Yukiya Amano, to resist such pressure publish the report the week before a November 17-18 meeting of the 35-member IAEA board.

What Amano says in the report "is not going to be reflection on who has bent his ear in one direction or the other," the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity, saying the document would be a "major number."

Previous agency reports have concentrated on Iran's efforts to enrich uranium, giving it the fissile material needed to produce electricity or medical isotopes, or, if purified further, for nuclear weapons.

But the new one is expected to address what the IAEA calls the "possible military dimension," meaning Iran's exploration of how to put the fissile material in a warhead and developing ballistic missiles.

Amano said in a September report he was "increasingly concerned" about such activities, saying its information was "extensive and comprehensive and has been acquired both from many (IAEA) member states and through its own efforts."

In another report in May, Amano had listed seven areas of concern including testing high explosives, studies of detonators and design work on arming missiles with a nuclear payload.

Iran, which has been hit by four rounds of UN Security Council resolutions, says its nuclear activities are peaceful and in the past has called such information fabricated.

© 2011 AFP

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