Powered by WebAds

Monday, January 30, 2006

Iran sets up secret team to infiltrate UN nuclear watchdog, say officials

The London Daily Telegraph has an interesting spy story today:

Iran has formed a top secret team of nuclear specialists to infiltrate the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, the UN-sponsored body that monitors its nuclear programme, The Daily Telegraph has been told.

Its target is the IAEA's safeguards division and its aim is to obtain information on the work of IAEA inspectors so that Iran can conceal the more sensitive areas of its nuclear research, according to information recently received by western intelligence.


The operation to target the IAEA is being run by Hosein Afarideh, the former head of the Iranian parliament's energy committee.

Mr Afarideh, reported to have close links with Iran's ministry of intelligence, is in regular contact with a team of Iranian nuclear engineers seconded to work at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters.

According to western intelligence reports, Mr Afarideh heads a three-man team at the headquarters of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran in Teheran, to prevent more embarrassing disclosures about its nuclear facilities.


An IAEA spokesman refused to comment on the intelligence reports. However, an official who confirmed that a number of Iranian nuclear engineers were working at the IAEA's headquarters said the agency had set up stringent safeguards to ensure that no country had access to the inspection teams investigating its nuclear facilities.

"We have a firewall system that prevents any member state finding out how the inspection teams working on that country operate," said the official.

Despite this close supervision, Iranian scientists working at the IAEA in Vienna travel frequently to Teheran, where they meet Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran officials including Mr Afarideh. Mr Afarideh is also in close contact with Mohsein Fakhrizadeh, head of the organisation's physical research centre.

IAEA inspectors have made repeated requests to interview Mr Fakhrizadeh about key aspects of Iran's nuclear programme. But the Iranian government has refused to grant them access to him.

Why doesn't the IAEA just co-operate openly with the Iranians? /sarc