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Head of UN nuclear watchdog says Iran not being 'entirely transparent' about enrichment programme

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog warned on Tuesday that Iran is “not entirely transparent” regarding its atomic program, particularly after an official who once led Tehran’s program announced the Islamic Republic has all the pieces for a weapon “in our hands.”

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, alluded to remarks made this weekend by Ali Akbar Salehi.

Iran is “presenting a face which is not entirely transparent when it comes to its nuclear activities. Of course this increases dangers,” Grossi warned. “There’s loose talk about nuclear weapons more and more, including in Iran recently. A very high official said, in fact, we have everything, it’s disassembled. Well, please let me know what you have.”

Grossi did not identify the official. However, in a late night Iranian state television show on Sunday, Salehi appeared and said that the country had all it needed to build a weapon.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, visits an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements, at his office compound in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 11, 2023.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, visits an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements, at his office compound in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 11, 2023. - AP/AP

“We have all the (pieces) of nuclear science and technology. Let me give an example,” Salehi said. “What does a car need? It needs a chassis, it needs an engine, it needs a steering wheel, it needs a gearbox. Have you made a gearbox? I say yes. An engine? But each one is for its own purpose.”

Salehi made a similar comment Saturday.

“We have it in our hands,” he said.

The warning from Grossi comes two days after the military displayed a series of missiles at the Islamic Republic's 45th anniversary celebrations.

Grossi noted “an accumulation of complexities” in the wider Middle East amid Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Since the collapse of the 2015 deal with several world powers that allowed it to continue enriching uranium below a certain threshold, Iran has pursued nuclear enrichment just below weapons-grade levels. Tehran has accumulated enough enriched uranium to build several weapons, if it so chose.

However, US intelligence agencies and others assess that Iran has yet to begin a full-blown weapons program.

Israel is widely agreed to be in possession of its own nuclear weapons, but pursues a policy of neither confirming nor denying the existence of such a programme.