VIENNA (Reuters) -- The new UN nuclear agency chief said his report Iran could be trying to develop a nuclear-armed missile was factual and impartial, rejecting Iranian suggestions he was biased towards Western powers.
Yukiya Amano spelled out a "clear" approach to Iranian nuclear activity after what Western diplomats said was the reluctance of predecessor Muhammad El-Baradei to confront Iran due to skepticism about the veracity of some intelligence on Tehran.
Amano's more forthright line on Iran could be significant if it increases momentum towards harsher United Nations sanctions on Iran. Six world powers have begun deliberations on more sanctions at the UN Security Council level in New York.
More cause for concern lay in Iranian foot-dragging on International Atomic Energy Agency requests for closer surveillance of a site where Iran began to ramp up uranium enrichment last month, said a senior diplomat close to the IAEA.
Iran says its move to refine uranium up to 20 percent purity is to create material for fabrication into fuel for a medical research reactor, but this has drawn suspicion abroad because Tehran lacks the technology to complete such a plan.
Instead, IAEA and Western officials fear Iran's step is ultimately meant to advance it on the road to generating bomb-grade uranium -- enriched to 90 percent purity.
Monitoring By Camera
The UN watchdog wants to improve camera positions at the site and the right to conduct snap inspections "within minutes of notice" to improve chances of detecting possible military diversions of enrichment, the senior diplomat told Reuters.
Amano told reporters only that IAEA efforts to beef up safeguards procedures were "taking a certain amount of time."
In an address to the UN agency's 35-nation governing board and a news conference, Amano did not repeat a politically contentious reference in a February 18 report about "the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
Amano was more guarded on March 1, saying only that the IAEA could not verify Iran's nuclear activity was wholly for civilian ends because Iran was not transparent enough with inspectors -- a line that El-Baradei repeatedly took.
Diplomats said Amano wanted to tamp down tensions within the IAEA's governing body over his report after a developing nation bloc, to which Iran belongs, suggested his hint at nuclear "weaponization" work by Iran lacked balancing caveats, such as the fact the intelligence has not been fully authenticated.
"In my view, this report is factual and absolutely impartial. That is the essence...it took stock of the whole picture. I wanted the report to be clear, straightforward, easy to read and understand," Amano told reporters.
"We have an integrated team of experts, we have experience. And the information is extensive. We crosscheck it. After this process, we are saying that altogether it raises concern."
He said it was urgent for Iran to dispel suspicions by suspending nuclear fuel production, allowing unfettered UN inspections and opening up to IAEA investigators.
Iranian officials have portrayed Amano as lacking experience, competence, and independence from Western powers, something IAEA officials and Western diplomats strongly deny.
Iran denies ever seeking nuclear bomb capability, saying its uranium enrichment drive is only for civilian purposes.