Iran secretly searching for uranium, leaked report says
VIENNA — Iran is expanding its covert global search for the uranium it needs for its nuclear activities, and a key focus is Zimbabwe, according to a new intelligence report acquired by The Associated Press.
The report is in line with international assessments that Iran’s domestic supplies cannot sustain its nuclear program, which could be turned toward making weapons.
An intelligence report from a member country of the International Atomic Energy Agency — shared with the AP by an official from that nation — said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met secretly last month with senior Zimbabwean mining officials “to resume negotiations . . . for the benefit of Iran’s uranium procurement plan.’’
“This follows work carried out by Iranian engineers to map out uranium deposits in Africa and assess the amount of uranium they contain,’’ said the two-page intelligence summary.
The report — confirmed independently by an official from another IAEA country — was shared as an Iranian delegation led by the head of the Cooperative Ministry Abbas Johari was meeting yesterday with “agriculture and mining interests’’ in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.
The official confirming the intelligence described the Salehi visit as part of an international Iranian effort that stretches across Africa, Asia, and South America and may involve more than a dozen countries. Both officials — whose countries follow Iran’s nuclear program — asked for anonymity in exchange for discussing intelligence matters.
The assessments are important because they call into question recent Iranian assertions meant to dispel doubts about the country’s capability to sustain and expand its uranium enrichment program.
Iran says it is enriching solely to power a future network of nuclear reactors.
But it has been targeted by UN sanctions because enrichment can also create fissile warhead material — and because of its nuclear secrecy and refusal to cooperate with IAEA probes into its activities.
With the completion date of any Iranian nuclear reactor network decades away, Tehran may have other pressing reasons to look for replenishable ore supplies, said Mark Fitzpatrick, head of nonproliferation for the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.