International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya
Amano addresses the media after a meeting last month in
Vienna where the agency asked member countries for more
money to fund its work checking Iran's nuclear compliance.
The UN nuclear watchdog has signalled its determination
to get to the bottom of suspicions that Iran may have worked on
designing an atomic bomb, after Tehran agreed to start
addressing the sensitive issue.
Chief UN nuclear inspector Tero Varjoranta said his team made
good progress during Feb. 8-9 talks in Tehran but that much
work remained to clarify concerns about Iran's nuclear
programme in an investigation that Western diplomats say the
Islamic state has long stonewalled.
"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
Iran denies Western allegations it seeks the capability to
make nuclear weapons, saying such claims are baseless and
fabricated by its foes. Years of hostile rhetoric and
sabre-rattling raised fears of a wider war in the Middle
But a long moribund diplomatic push to resolve the decade-old
dispute picked up steam after last June's election of a
relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as Iran's president on a
platform of conciliation to ease its international isolation.
In Tehran, Rouhani told a gathering of foreign diplomats that
Iran's doors "are open to the IAEA within international
regulations", the official news agency IRNA reported.
"We have never sought weapons of mass destruction. We don't
want nuclear know-how for war, as some countries do," he
Iran and six powers struck an interim deal on Nov. 24 to curb
Tehran's nuclear work in exchange for some relaxation of
sanctions that have hobbled the oil producer's economy and
they will start talks next week 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 complementary to, the wider-ranging
diplomacy between the Islamic Republic 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 progress 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 assemble 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," said Kelsey Davenport of the Arms
Control Association, a U.S. research and advocacy group.
IAEA INQUIRY 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 arrangement with the IAEA meant to help allay
concern about the nuclear programme.
For the first time and in a potential breakthrough, one of
them specifically dealt with an issue that is part of the UN
nuclear agency's inquiry into suspected atomic bomb research
by Iran, which has repeatedly denied any such ambitions.
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
Although such fast-functioning detonators have some
non-nuclear uses - including in the oil sector - they can
also help set off an atomic device.
The Vienna-based UN 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 nuclear warhead.
Faced with deadlock last year in its attempts to get Iran to
cooperate with its investigation, the IAEA changed tactics
and now seeks to gradually build mutual trust by starting
with some of the less sensitive issues, diplomats say.
Suggesting that more difficult matters would have to wait a
while longer, there was no mention in the IAEA's statement on
Sunday of its long-sought access to the Parchin military
base, where it suspects explosives tests relevant for nuclear
bombs may have been conducted a decade ago. Iran denies this.
Other steps to be taken by Iran by mid-May under the
agreement include IAEA inspector access to the Saghand
uranium mine and design information about a planned reactor
at Arak that the West fears could yield weapons material.
The IAEA, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear
weapons in the world, says it needs such information and
access to get a more complete understanding of Iran's nuclear
work, which Tehran says is aimed at generating electricity.
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, and
more steps would follow. "These things take time."