New documents shown at a dramatic closed-door briefing to diplomats in Vienna by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief nuclear inspector, Olli Heinonen, provided new evidence that Iran continues to work on developing a nuclear warhead for its long-range ballistic missiles, despite a recent report to the contrary from the U.S. intelligence community.
The documents, whose contents were described to Newsmax by persons present at the closed-door briefing on Feb. 25, included an internal Iranian government PowerPoint report detailing progress on a missile re-entry vehicle from July 9, 2003 through Jan. 14, 2004.
The progress report on the re-entry vehicle, known as Project P111, contradicts the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, released in December, which concluded that Iran had shut down its nuclear weapons work in the fall of 2003.
The board room fell silent when Heinonen showed the Iranian PowerPoint presentation. Participants sat transfixed by the stunning new evidence of Iran’s secret nuclear weapons work, diplomats present during the briefing told Newsmax.
Heinonen didn’t say how he had obtained the PowerPoint, but noted that “several member states” had assisted his investigation.
Heinonen traveled to Iran last month to confront the Iranians with the new evidence he had gathered. The Iranians dismissed the documents as “fabrications” and “baseless allegations.”
Heinonen also showed an analysis from the U.S. intelligence community of Iran’s Green Salt Project that has not been shared with top U.S. government officials.
According to IAEA reports, the Green Salt Project refers to studies to build a clandestine facility to convert uranium yellowcake into UF4. This process is vital uranium enrichment to produce uranium metal. Uranium metal can be machined to form hemispherical “pits” or weapon cores.
The U.S. intelligence community report was shared with the Iranian representatives to the IAEA during the Feb. 25 meeting in Vienna, but has not been briefed to senior U.S. government officials involved in tracking Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Newsmax has learned.
At one point, Heinonen showed a videotape of a “mock-up chamber and internals” of the missile re-entry vehicle, as well as laboratory preparations to test them, which could only have been obtained from sources inside Iran.
He also showed an Iranian animation demonstrating how a Shahab-3 missile could be programmed to detonate at about 2,000 feet over a target. Heinonen noted that detonation at that altitude only made sense for a nuclear warhead.
Key to the clandestine programs was a private Iranian company called Kimia Maadan, which the Iranians acknowledged had been set up in May 2000 to work on a secret uranium mine at Gachine.
Kimia Maadan was run by Revolutionary Guards Brig. Gen. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, one of a number of alleged nuclear weapons designers the IAEA has sought to interview, without success.
Heinonen said that “questions remained regarding Kimia Maadan and its association with the military," sources at the briefing told Newsmax.
Iran told the IAEA that Kimia Maadan ceased to operate in June 2003, a date consistent with the National Intelligence Estimate claim that Iran stopped nuclear weapons work at that time.
Iranian Ambassador Ali Akbar Soltanieh “smirked during the presentation and shook his head in apparent distaste,” according to one participant.
Once the briefing was over, Soltanieh “shot up like a Shahab-3, more angry than I have ever seen him,” another source present at the briefing told Newsmax.
Practically shouting, Soltanieh accused the IAEA of “heading down a dangerous path” similar to its investigation of the A.Q. Khan nuclear black market network in Pakistan, the source added.
Soltanieh brought three other people with him to the briefing and had them take photographs and videotaped the documents Heinonen presented, sources at the briefing said.
At the end of Heinonen’s presentation, Soltanieh asked what he should say to his president, especially since Iran and the IAEA had “a beautiful and successful moment” during the latest visit to Tehran by IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei.
ElBaradei visited Tehran in January, where he met for the first time with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as well as with president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the meeting, Khamenei insisted “that there had never been a nuclear weapons development program,” ElBaradei told the IAEA board.
In his report to the IAEA board of governors in Vienna on March 3, ElBaradei attempted to minimize the Heinonen findings, claiming that the Agency had clarified all but one outstanding issue with Iran.
“The one outstanding issue that is relevant to Iran´s past activities is the so-called alleged studies involving possible weaponization activities,” ElBaradei said.
But several ambassadors disagreed, as did the United Nations Security Council, which passed on Monday a third resolution calling on Iran to halt all uranium enrichment and imposed new Chapter 7 sanctions.
Other documents shown by Heinonen included:schematic drawings of the missile warheadFlow sheets for a secret uranium conversion plantTest reports on high voltage detonators Production documents on an exploding bridgewire detonatorProcurement documents showing that Iran had purchased spark gaps, shock wave software, neutron sources, special steel parts, and radiation measurement equipment, all of which are relevant to nuclear weapons workDocumentation on Iranian training courses on neutron calculations, the effect of shock waves on metal, enrichment/isotope separation, and ballisic missilesInformation on the construction of what appeared to be a nuclear test site, with a 1,300 foot shaft connected to a monitoring station six miles away, which the Iranians claimed was used to test conventional explosives.
“I am not an engineer,” U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory L. Schulte, told the IAEA board on Wednesday, referring specifically to the test shaft. “But I suspect that technicians don’t need to shelter themselves 10 kilometers away to test conventional weapons . . . or automotive air bags.”
Instead, Schulte said, “as the director general reports, these various activities are ‘relevant to nuclear weapon research and development.’”
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