updated 4/2/2008 11:51:42 AM ET 2008-04-02T15:51:42

China has provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with intelligence linked to Tehran's alleged attempts to make nuclear arms, diplomats have told The Associated Press.

Beijing, along with Moscow, have opposed harsh U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran. It has acted as a brake within the council, consistently watering down a U.S.-led push to impose severe penalties on Tehran for its nuclear defiance since the first set of sanctions was passed in late 2006.

A Chinese decision to provide information for use in the agency's attempts to probe Iran's purported nuclear weapons program would appear to reflect growing international unease about how honest the Islamic republic has been in denying it ever tried to make such arms.

China's venture was revealed by two senior diplomats with good contacts to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with one commenting late last week and the other Wednesday. The IAEA declined comment.

The diplomats said Beijing was the most surprising entry among a fairly substantial list of nations recently forwarding information to the agency that adds to previously provided intelligence, and which could be relevant in attempts to probe Iran for past or present nuclear weapons research.

But they said several other countries not normally considered to be in the anti-Iran camp had also done so in recent weeks.

The diplomats — who demanded anonymity because their information was confidential —declined to name individual nations. But they attributed a generally increased flow of information to U.N. nuclear watchdog to concern sparked by a multimedia presentation to the 35 IAEA board members by the agency in February of intelligence previously forwarded by member states on Iran's alleged clandestine nuclear arms program.

Misleading documents?
One of the diplomats said the agency was also on the lookout for misleading information provided to it, either inadvertently or in attempts to falsely implicate Iran. One example, he said was a document showing experiments with implosion technology that can be used to detonate a nuclear device.

While the document appeared genuine, it was unclear whether it originated from Iran, said the diplomat.

Suspected weapons-related work outlined in the February presentation and IAEA reports preceding it include:

  • uranium conversion linked to high explosives testing and designs of a missile re-entry vehicle, all apparently interconnected through involvement of officials and institutions
  • procurement of so-called "dual use" equipment and experiments that also could be used in both civilian and military nuclear programs, and
  • Iran's possession of a 15-page document outlining how to form uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.

A U.S. intelligence estimate late last year said Tehran worked on nuclear weapons programs until 2003, while Israel and other nations say such work continued past that date.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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