By: Laurent Zecchini
Source: Le Monde, March 27, 2008
Translated from French by NCR-Iran.org
While the United Nations' Security Council recently adopted a third set of sanctions designed to force Iran to halt its nuclear program, Le Monde has obtained documents showing that Tehran has pursued a military nuclear program after 2003, contrary to an American National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) report published on December 3, 2007.
On February 25, Olli Heinonen, the Finnish Deputy Director General of the International Agency of Atomic Energy (IAEA), presented evidence of the existence of an Iranian military nuclear program. A letter in 2004 by Engineer Mahdi Khaniki, one of the main interlocutors of the IAEA and former Iranian ambassador to Syria, to Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, vice president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), confirms the charge.
The letter provides an overview of relations between Tehran and IAEA inspectors in Vienna. Khaniki reminded that IAEA inspectors – who act under the direction of Mr. Heinonen – have requested to see the purchase orders for the spare parts used in the development of centrifuges. These centrifuges when assembled in "cascade" can be used to enrich uranium, possibly to military grade.
"At a meeting held on January 31, 2004 in the presence of Dr Rowhani (Hassan Rowhani, chief negotiator of the Iranian nuclear programme until the end of 2005), he determined that these orders be prepared in accordance with wishes of the AEOI, so that they would be ready to be delivered to the IAEA." He added: "It is worth noting, that the representative of the Defense Ministry and Armed Forces said at the meeting that the purchase orders had been prepared to be handed over (to the IAEA)."
"However, Khaniki continues saying that portions of these purchase orders, which I myself saw at the Ministry of Defense, were crossed out in black ink and the quantities were not visible. It seems, therefore, that these purchase orders could raise more questions than those which should (normally) be submitted to the Agency (IAEA)." He concluded "Naturally, I asked Engineer Mohammadi to prepare the ones with the necessary number (corrected), and I hope he has already done it."
For Iranian dossier specialists, this letter represents clear evidence of the Defense Ministry's involvement in the Iranian nuclear project. This confirms suspicions about the military nature of the program, while attesting to the efforts of the Iranians to conceal it.
According to sources close to an intelligence service, this letter is part of "Project 13", which is entitled "Project to eradicate threats."
This project would have meant to deceive the IAEA inspectors. The Center for Research in Physics (PHRC) in Lavizan Shian has been renamed as "AMAD", and the "departments" have been named after the "projects," in order to destroy the leads. In the second phase, probably in 2006, the name "AMAD" was also deleted. Since then, it is no longer referred to as the "Center" which would be an indication of the presence of a military nuclear program.
U.S. intelligence services have picked up in mid-December 2006, a conversation between two unidentified officials at the Department of Defense in Tehran which refers to the differences between officials of the AEOI and the Ministry of Defence.
One of the two interlocutors referred to the "Center" and stressed: "The AEOI would take care of its own interests, and its policy stood at 180 degrees to ours. Currently, as for the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), I think that the Defense Ministry must have the last word, because they (the leaders of the AEOI) know that we intend to conduct tests."
Doubt remains about the nature of these "tests," but they reinforce suspicions.
The information made public by Olli Heinonen in February in Vienna contradicts the conclusion by U.S. Intelligence services' report in December 2007. To explain this discrepancy, some French diplomats talk of a "major malfunction" in the U.S. administration.