WASHINGTON, Apr 17 (Reuters) The United States expressed concern today at Iran's claim that it is researching an advanced method of making atomic fuel.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan referred to a statement from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said Iran was ''presently conducting research'' on a P-2 centrifuge, which can enrich uranium quickly.
''If the statements prove to be true, it would be a very serious concern,'' McClellan said. ''Undisclosed work on P-2 centrifuges would be a further violation of Iran's safeguard obligations, in addition to those that have already been identified by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.'' He added: ''Such violations and failures by the regime to comply with its international obligations run contrary to the regime's claims that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.'' The United States and European allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, while Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful electricity generation.
Iran previously said it was carrying out research and development into P-2 centrifuges, which are faster than the P-1 versions Iran uses to enrich uranium. But the IAEA has been seeking clarification on issues such as when the program started and the scale of its plans.
A Vienna-based diplomat familiar with IAEA inquiries said, ''The unclear status of P-2 work in Iran has been a running sore in IAEA investigations.
''The P-1 centrifuge they have operating now is generally seen as an unreliable, obsolete device. The P-2, by comparison, is a super-improved model that would correspondingly improve their output (of enriched uranium),'' the official added.
An EU-3 diplomat said today the P-2 program would have been suspended in a deal between the EU and Iran to halt enrichment work that broke down last year.
''So far as I'm aware, there are no P-2 centrifuges in place,'' he said. ''The significance of Ahmadinejad's remark is not clear.
For that matter, it's never been too clear what R