UN watchdog suspects Iran is diverting uranium

Iran may be diverting uranium for use in weapons research, according to a report by the UN International Energy Agency (IEA), a nuclear watchdog.

As reported by Reuters, there is a discrepancy between measurements taken by UN inspectors last year at a research site in Tehran, and the amount declared by the laboratory:

“The discrepancy remains to be clarified,” said the latest quarterly report on Iran by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), issued to member states on Friday evening. The 11-page IAEA document also showed that Iran had sharply increased its uranium enrichment drive. The report’s findings, which added to fears of escalating tension between Iran and the West, sent oil prices higher.

Iran says it is enriching uranium only as fuel for nuclear power plants, not atomic weapons, but its refusal to curb the activity has drawn increasingly tough sanctions aimed at its oil exports.

The amount of uranium is not enough to be used for a bomb but could be relevant to weapons tests, says the story.

Meanwhile, although some Asian firms have found creative ways of doing business with Iran, European iron ore traders and shipping companies are shying away completely from transacting with the country as US-led sanctions start to have an impact.

There is no formal ban on the iron ore trade with Iran, ranking sixth in terms of exports, but shipping firms and traders in Europe nevertheless are balking at the financial and political risks in dealing with Iran, Poten & Partners reported last week:

“No banks will touch Iranian business,” a second steel and iron ore trader said. “The only way would be to finance the trade yourself, but there is no company willing to do it now. The political risk is too high. There could be a war, an export ban and then your money gets held up.”

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