To probe allegations of nuclear arms development

The U.N. nuclear agency has created a special Iran Task Force of nuclear weapons experts, intelligence analysts and other specialists focused on probing allegations that Tehran has been or is secretly working on developing atomic arms, according to an internal document shared with AP .

The IAEA announcement says the elite squad started work August 10. Dated Wednesday, it says the unit will concentrate on implementing its agreements with Iran — allowing it to monitor its nuclear activities as mandated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It also says it will focus on “relevant” IAEA and Security Council resolutions on Iran. Both have demanded that Tehran stop activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons and cooperate with the agency’s investigation of suspicions that Tehran worked on nuclear weapons.

But the force will have no more power regarding inspections of Iran’s known or suspected nuclear sites than previous IAEA inspectors did.

Iran has stonewalled an IAEA probe into its alleged weapons work for more than four years, increasing concerns it has something to hide.

Creating a unit focused on only one country is an unusual move for the IAEA, reflecting the urgency the U.N. nuclear watchdog is attaching to Iran amid fears that it is moving closer to the ability to make nuclear weapons, despite its denial.

Diplomats had told the AP last week that the IAEA was forming a special Iran team. The announcement confirming that information was forwarded on Wednesday by a diplomat who demanded anonymity because he was not authorised to share confidential and internal IAEA documents.

A phone call seeking comment from Ali Asghar Soltanieh — Iran’s IAEA envoy — went to his voice mail.

One of the diplomats who spoke to the AP last week said the Iran team would comprise about 20 experts drawn from the main IAEA pool.

The IAEA announcement said the squad would be headed by Massimo Aparo. A nuclear engineer, Mr. Aparo is an IAEA veteran who has held numerous senior positions linked to non-proliferation within and outside of the IAEA and was already in charge of the Iran file before the agency revamp.

The agency said he would be reporting to IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, head of the agency’s nuclear inspectors and the agency’s point man on Iran.

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