Iran to IAEA: Go ahead and publish 'counterfeit' report
A crucial IAEA report on Iran's nuclear programme due in the next few days -- raised as a possible trigger for war by Israel -- is based on "counterfeit" claims, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in comments published on Sunday.
The update, expected to be released to International Atomic Energy Agency members on Tuesday or Wednesday, is believed to allege that Iran did theoretical modelling on nuclear warheads and is developing missiles to carry them, according to diplomats at the UN nuclear watchdog.
"I believe that these documents lack authenticity. But if they insist, they should go ahead and publish. Better to face danger once than be always in danger," several Iranian dailies quoted Salehi as saying.
His comments were made Saturday to media in Tehran during a visit by Burundian Foreign Minister Augustin Nsanze.
"We have said repeatedly that their documents are baseless. For example one can counterfeit money, but it remains counterfeit. These documents are like that," Salehi said.
He added: "Iran's nuclear issue (for the IAEA) is not a technical or a legal issue but entirely a political one. If (the IAEA) dealt with it purely as a technical or legal issue, then it would say everything about the issue was transparent."
Israel is seen as poised to seize on the report as justification for air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, according to a storm of Israeli media speculation in the past few days.
Israeli President Shimon Peres warned late Saturday that an attack on Iran was "more and more likely" because of intelligence service fears that "Iran is ready to obtain the nuclear weapon."
Israel has already tested what its media described as a "ballistic missile" and held a major civil defence drill in the past few days -- although it insisted that neither move was linked to the reports of imminent war.
The IAEA update does not contain an explicit allegation that Iran's nuclear programme -- which Tehran maintains is exclusively for peaceful, civilian purposes -- is being used for military ends.
But one Western diplomat said in Vienna that "it will be an extensive body of evidence that will be very hard for Iran to refute as forgery, as they have done in the past."
IAEA head Yukiya Amano said in a September report he was "increasingly concerned" about the "possible military dimension" of Iran's atomic activities, calling information at the agency's disposal "extensive and comprehensive."