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Russian 'helped Iran design atomic bomb'

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with a tiger cub at his residence outside Moscow. The infant female, presented to Putin on his birthday, will soon be resettled to a zoo

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with a tiger cub at his residence outside Moscow. The infant female, presented to Putin on his birthday, will soon be resettled to a zoo

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with a tiger cub at his residence outside Moscow. The infant female, presented to Putin on his birthday, will soon be resettled to a zoo

A Russian scientist may have helped Iran to design advanced detonators whose only possible use would be in a nuclear weapon, according to documents obtained by United Nations inspectors.

The Russian's alleged role was disclosed in a document, currently in the hands of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which describes complex and highly sensitive experiments supposedly conducted inside Iran.

In total, the IAEA possesses 18 official documents that cast doubt on Iran's explanation that its nuclear programme is a peaceful endeavour intended only to generate electricity.

This evidence, which Tehran claims has been faked, suggests that Iran has studied the stages for building a nuclear weapon.

Some documents focus on how to install a warhead in the Shahab-3 missile, while others describe facilities for testing a nuclear device.

The latest document covers the problem of detonating a nuclear device. Its suggestion that a Russian scientist was involved is the first evidence that foreign experts had a direct hand in Iran's nuclear programme.

But the IAEA believes this individual was not working on behalf of the Russian authorities and was present in Iran on a freelance basis. After the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, some Russian nuclear experts are known to have left to work for other governments.

This evidence was presented to diplomats by Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's head of safeguards, during a closed meeting in February.

When Iran's representative denied that this showed the existence of a nuclear weapons programme, Mr Heinonen said the experiments were "not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon'', according to the 'New York Times'.

He added that the detonators described in the document were "key components of nuclear weapons''. The IAEA has repeatedly asked Iran to explain these studies in order to assure the world of the allegedly peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

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Evidence

British officials believe the UN inspectors have correctly "zeroed in'' on the central issue. They consider the documents outlining these studies to be the strongest evidence that Iran has sought a nuclear weapon.

Iran had hoped to persuade the IAEA to confirm the peaceful aims of its nuclear programme.

But the inspectors' focus on Iran's alleged studies of how to build a weapon appears to have dashed that plan.

Tehran's continued enrichment of uranium, in breach of five UN resolutions, has attracted most attention. But this is classic dual-use technology.

Uranium enriched to low levels of purity could be used in nuclear power stations, so an enrichment programme alone does not amount to proof of an Iranian effort to build a nuclear weapon.

British officials, however, believe that the documents -- allegedly showing that Iran studied the problems involved in making a bomb -- provide this proof. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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