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UN concern over Iran nuclear work

The UN nuclear agency has said it is "increasingly concerned" about a stream of intelligence information suggesting that Iran continues to work secretly on developing a nuclear payload for a missile and other components of a nuclear weapons programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report said "many member states" are providing evidence for that assessment, describing the information it is receiving as credible, "extensive and comprehensive".

The report was made available shortly after being shared internally with the 35 IAEA member nations and the UN Security Council.

It also said Tehran has fulfilled a promise made earlier this year and started installing equipment to enrich uranium at a new location - an underground bunker that is better protected from air attack than its present enrichment facilities.

Enrichment can produce both nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material, and Tehran - which says it wants only to produce fuel with the technology - is under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment, which it says it needs for fuel only.

It also denies secretly experimenting with a nuclear weapons programme and has blocked a four-year attempt by the IAEA to follow up on intelligence that it secretly designed blueprints linked to a nuclear payload on a missile, experimented with exploding a nuclear charge, and conducted work on other components of a weapons programme.

In a 2007 estimate, the US intelligence community said that while Iran had worked on a weapons programme such activities appeared to have ceased in 2003. But diplomats say a later intelligence summary avoided such specifics, and recent IAEA reports on the topic have expressed growing unease that such activities may be continuing.

The phrase "increasingly concerned" has not appeared in previous reports discussing Iran's alleged nuclear weapons work and reflects the frustration felt by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano over the lack of progress in his investigations.

His report said the increased concern is due to the "possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities" linked to weapons work. In particular, said the report, the agency continues to receive new information about "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile".

Acquired from "many" member states, the information possessed by the IAEA is "extensive and comprehensive ... broadly consistent and credible", said the report.

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