Chief U.N. nuclear inspector Tero Varjoranta said progress had
been good during February 8-9 talks in Tehran but that much work
remained in clarifying concerns of possible military links to Iran's
nuclear program, in an investigation which Western diplomats say
Tehran has stonewalled for years.
"There are still a lot of outstanding issues," Varjoranta, deputy
director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
said at Vienna airport after returning from the Iranian capital. "We
will address them all in due course."
Iran denies Western allegations it seeks the capability to make
nuclear weapons, saying such claims are baseless and forged by its
foes. Years of hostile rhetoric and confrontation have raised fears
of a new war in the Middle East.
But a diplomatic push to resolve the decade-old dispute gained new
momentum after last June's election of a relative moderate, Hassan
Rouhani, as Iran's president on a platform to ease its international
Iran and six powers agreed late last year on an interim deal to curb
Tehran's nuclear work in exchange for some easing of sanctions that
have battered the oil producer's economy and they will next week
start talks on a long-term agreement.
The IAEA investigation into what it calls the possible military
dimensions (PMD) to Iran's nuclear activity is separate from, but
closely linked to, wider diplomacy between Tehran and the United
States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China.
The IAEA investigation is focused on the question of whether Iran
sought atomic bomb technology in the past and, if it did, to
determine whether such work has since stopped.
Diplomats say the way the Iran-IAEA talks progresses will be
important also for the outcome of the big powers' diplomacy, which
the West hopes will lead to a settlement denying Iran the capability
to make a nuclear weapon any time soon.
"Continued progress on resolving PMD issues will go a long way to
demonstrate to the international community that Iran is not pursuing
nuclear weapons and is willing to come clean about its past
activities," Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association, a
U.S. research and advocacy group, said.
[to top of second column]
IAEA PROBE WILL "TAKE TIME"
The IAEA said on Sunday that Iran had agreed to take seven new
practical measures within three months under a November transparency
deal with the IAEA meant to help allay concern about the nuclear
For the first time, one of them specifically dealt with an issue
that is part of the U.N. nuclear agency's inquiry into suspected
atomic bomb research by Iran, which has repeatedly denied any such
The IAEA said Iran would provide "information and explanations for
the agency to assess Iran's stated need or application for the
development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators".
Although such fast-functioning detonators have some non-nuclear
uses, they can also help set off an atomic device.
The Vienna-based U.N. agency has been investigating accusations for
years that Iran may have coordinated efforts to process uranium,
test explosives and revamp a missile cone in a way suitable for a
Other steps to be taken by Iran by mid-May include inspector access
to the Saghand uranium mine and design information about a planned
reactor the West fears could yield weapons material.
Varjoranta said Iran had implemented six previously agreed steps
under the November framework accord, including providing inspectors
access to two-nuclear related sites.
"Since November everything has gone as planned," he said, adding
more steps would follow: "These things take time."
(Editing by Ralph Boulton)
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