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Iran hunts for Zimbabwe uranium

The report is in line with international assessments that Iran’s domestic supplies cannot sustain its nuclear programme that could be turned toward making weapons.

An intelligence report from a member country of the International Atomic Energy Agency — shared with the AP by an official from that nation — says Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met secretly last month with senior Zimbabwean mining officials “to resume negotiations. . . for the benefit of Iran’s uranium procurement plan.”

“This follows work carried out by Iranian engineers to map out uranium deposits in Africa and assess the amount of uranium they contain,” said the two-page intelligence summary.

The report — confirmed independently by an official from another IAEA country — was shared as an Iranian delegation led by the head of the Co-operative Ministry Abbas Johari was meeting last Thursday with “agriculture and mining interests” in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.
The official confirming the intelligence described the Salehi visit as part of an international Iranian effort that stretches across Africa, Asia and South America and may involve more than a dozen countries. Both officials — whose countries closely follow Iran’s nuclear programme — asked for anonymity in exchange for discussing intelligence matters.

The assessments are important because they call into question recent Iranian assertions meant to dispel doubts about the country’s capability to sustain and expand its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran says it is enriching solely to power a future network of nuclear reactors. But it has been targeted by UN sanctions because enrichment can also create fissile warhead material — and because of its nuclear secrecy and refusal to co-operate with IAEA probes into its activities.

The assessments come days ahead of the latest IAEA report on Iran, which has been under nearly a decade of international nuclear perusal over concerns it might seek to develop nuclear arms.

Diplomats said on Thursday that reports may contain an index listing experiments the agency suspects Iran conducted as part of work on a nuclear weapons programme. The alleged experiments have been known for years, but republication would show the agency’s impatience with Iran’s prolonged refusal to co-operate with its investigation.


— AP

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