nuclear probe reaches deadline, no word yet on outcome
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[August 25, 2014]
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA (Reuters) - A deadline for Iran to
answer U.N. nuclear watchdog questions about suspected atomic bomb
research was reached on Monday without any immediate word on whether
Tehran had provided the information.
Western officials have long said Iran must address the U.N.
agency's suspicions about its work and that this would be an
important boost for parallel diplomatic efforts to end a decade-old
dispute over the country's nuclear program.
Washington and its allies have accused Iran of working to produce an
atomic weapons capability, raising fears of a new Middle East war.
Iran has dismissed the accusations, saying its work is focused on
generating electricity and other peaceful projects.
Diplomats told Reuters last week that the long-running inquiry by
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) appeared to be making
only slow headway, casting doubt on whether Iran would fully meet
the Aug. 25 target date.
They said there was still time for Iran to respond to the questions,
noting that it had occasionally waited until the last minute to make
concessions in the past. Officials said Tehran might also provide
the information a few days late.
There was no immediate comment from Tehran and the IAEA said it
would not comment on the issue on Monday. Diplomats say the watchdog
may only release details of any Iranian response in its next
quarterly report, expected in early September.
The Islamic republic has promised to cooperate with the IAEA since
Hassan Rouhani, widely seen as a pragmatist, was elected Iranian
president in mid-2013.
Tehran agreed in May to take five steps by late August, including
information on alleged explosives experimentation, and studies
related to calculating nuclear explosive yields.
Western diplomats say Iran needs to help clear up the IAEA's
suspicions if it wants to reach a broader diplomatic deal in the
separate negotiations with the United States, France, Germany,
Britain, China and Russia.
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Those talks are focused on persuading Iran to curb its atomic
activities in exchange for a lifting of sanctions that are hurting
its oil-dependent economy.
With major gaps remaining over what will be permitted in Iran's
uranium-enrichment program - activity which can have both civilian
and military uses - those talks were extended in July until Nov. 24.
After years of what the West saw as Iranian stonewalling, Iran as a
first step in May gave the IAEA information about why it was
developing exploding bridge wire detonators, which can be used to
set off atomic explosive devices. Iran says they are for civilian
The areas that the IAEA wants Iran to address were listed in a
report published in the watchdog in 2011 that included a trove of
intelligence indicating a concerted weapons program that was halted
in 2003, when Iran came under increased international pressure. The
intelligence also suggested some activities may later have resumed.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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