Bushehr nuclear power plant
Bushehr nuclear power plant AFP photo

A confidential new report by a UN panel highlights Iran's methods of evading the sanctions that were imposed on it.

The report, obtained by Reuters on Monday, shows that these methods range from concealing titanium tubes inside steel pipes to using its petrochemical industry as a cover to obtain items for a heavy-water nuclear reactor.

The latest report by the UN Panel of Experts, which monitors compliance with the Security Council's sanctions regime on Iran, said Tehran's attempts to illicitly procure materials for its disputed nuclear and missile programs may have slowed down as it pursues talks on a long-term deal with world powers.

At the same time, the report, which reached the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee days ahead of a new round of Vienna talks between Iran and six world powers, said an alternative explanation could be that Tehran had merely learned how to outsmart security and intelligence services in acquiring sensitive components and materials.

One example of concealment given by the panel's report was a set of titanium tubes hidden inside a shipment of stainless steel pipes manufactured in and shipped from China.

The report, seen by Reuters, includes a photo of 10 titanium tubes that were fitted inside steel piping. The report provides no details of the potential nuclear applications of the titanium tubes, noting only that "the Panel's investigation into this reported incident is ongoing".

The experts recommend that governments exercise greater vigilance over freight-forwarding firms, which often appear as the ordering party on shipments of items destined for Iran. While such practices are not necessarily illegal, the panel says Tehran could use them to conceal final destinations or uses.

Another example of deception the experts found is efforts by Iran to obtain German and Indian valves for its heavy-water reactor at Arak. A case involving valves is currently under investigation in Germany, the expert panel notes.

The Arak heavy water plant has been a sticking point in negotiations between Iran and the West. Past satellite images  showed that the plant was operational, raising fears that Iran is trying to produce plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

Wendy Sherman, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, stated last December, "Quite frankly, we're not quite sure what you need a 40-megawatt heavy water reactor, which is what Arak is, for any civilian peaceful purpose."

The latest report is not the first time that Iran has been accused of violating the sanctions imposed on it. Last year, the United States said that Iran was trying to obtain high-tech materials linked to their nuclear programs, in violation of UN sanctions.

In 2012, it was revealed that Iranian ships were using other countries’ flags in an attempt to evade Western sanctions against the country.

Iran is currently holding talks with Western powers on securing a permanent deal that minimizes any potential Iranian nuclear weapons threat in return for a full lifting of sanctions.

The permanent deal would come following an interim deal reached between the sides in November. Under that deal,  Iran agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment program in return for sanctions relief worth some $6-7 billion, including the transfer of some $4.2 billion in frozen overseas funds.