Iran moves to cooperate in U.N. nuclear bomb probe

VIENNA/DUBAI Sun Feb 9, 2014 1:40pm EST

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the media after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the media after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna January 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

Related Topics

VIENNA/DUBAI (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear agency said on Sunday that Iran had agreed to start addressing suspicions that it may have worked on designing an atomic weapon, a potential breakthrough in a long-stalled investigation into Tehran's atomic activities.

The development - although limited for now - marked a step forward in an international push to settle a decade-old dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran says this is peaceful, while the West fears that Iran wants to develop atomic arms.

The deal could also send a positive signal to separate, high-stakes negotiations between Iran and six world powers which are due to start on February 18 in Vienna, aimed at reaching a broader diplomatic settlement with the Islamic state.

Efforts to end years of hostile rhetoric and confrontation that could otherwise trigger a new war in the Middle East gained momentum with last year's election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as new Iranian president on a platform to ease Iran's international isolation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had agreed during talks in Tehran 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 program.

For the first time, one of them specifically dealt with an issue that is part of the U.N. nuclear agency's inquiry into what it calls the possible military dimensions to Iran's atomic activities. Iran has repeatedly denied any such ambitions.

It 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.

"It is an important issue and it is good that the agency can now tackle it," former chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts said. But he made clear that much work remained in order to fully clarify the IAEA's concerns: "It is a first step in a long process."

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 of its long-sought access to the Parchin military site, where it suspects explosives tests relevant for nuclear bombs may have been conducted a decade ago. Iran denies this.


The IAEA 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. Iran says such claims are baseless and forged.

Other steps to be taken by Iran by May 15 include inspector access to the Saghand uranium mine and the Ardakan uranium ore milling plant as well as updated design information about a planned reactor the West fears could yield weapons material.

Iran will also give information on the extraction of uranium from phosphates. Uranium can fuel nuclear power plants but also provide the fissile core of a bomb if refined more.

The IAEA, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, says it needs such access and information to gain a more complete picture about Iran's nuclear program.

It wants "to have a complete understanding of Iran's uranium holdings", said Olli Heinonen, another former chief IAEA inspector, now at Harvard University's Belfer Center.

The Iran-IAEA talks are separate from, though still closely linked to, the wider diplomacy between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia.

Shortly after Tehran and the IAEA signed their cooperation accord on November 11, Iran and the six powers clinched an interim deal to curb its nuclear work in exchange for some sanctions easing, designed to buy time for the talks on a long-term deal.

The IAEA's 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.

A joint Iran-IAEA statement issued after the February 8-9 discussions said the two sides held "constructive technical meetings" and that Iran had implemented six previous, initial steps including access to two nuclear-related sites.

The IAEA had hoped to persuade Iran in the talks finally to start addressing its suspicions. While denying them, Iran has said it will work with the IAEA to clear up any "ambiguities".

The issue of detonator development was mentioned in a report that the IAEA prepared in 2011 containing a trove of intelligence information about alleged activities by Iran that could be used in developing atomic arms.

"Given their possible application in a nuclear explosive device, and the fact that there are limited civilian and conventional military applications for such technology, Iran's development of such detonators and equipment is a matter of concern," the IAEA said in the 2011 document.

It said Iran had told the U.N. agency in 2008 that it had developed such detonators for civil and conventional military applications. "However, Iran has not explained to the agency its own need or application for such detonators," it said.

(Editing by Stephen Powell)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (12)
User21 wrote:
Iran has no choice but to cooperate….

On to another most serious topic, …IRS

I am speculating here (entire below)…

but similar to what happened with Nixon, I see someone not willing to break their moral duties to the American people, and will break ranks within the ‘solemn circle’.

Soon, they will come forward with news about the IRS scandal that will break this story wide open; others who do not come forward first may end up also being charged,

Similar to Watergate…. It wasn’t the break-in that took down Nixon, it was the lies.

I guess this will happen very soon, as even the most loyal of people do not want to go to jail because X was lying and they now were asked to lie…

If I worked there, I would be looking for the excuse to be leaving,

not worth it, especially when it is getting so harry, and he announces before the investigation is done that there was not a ‘smidgeon’ of corruption, …oops, you forgot, and slipped up, we know that will be the outcome when not one victim has been interviewed,

kindda strange, huh? well he is a busy man, and he slipped up big time,

oh, yeah, I would be seeking counsel during lunch time, so you know what to do before that moral person steps forward,

(who’s to say they haven’t already, and the reporter is just working with their editor on it),

Feb 09, 2014 5:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
User21 wrote:
MSNBC’s Steve Benen just wrote an article titled “Beating a dead horse.” about the IRS scandal. He says it is dead, and there is no there, there.

Is this true? Then why such an outrage? – Does Steve know something we don’t? Is he just filling pages with his best guesses?

I honestly believe democrats want the story to go away, while republicans want someone to burn for this.

But how would have any of our Presidents reacted over such an accusation. – Would they slip up and give the final score before the game was over, or would they take it serious as such an instance of discrimination could take down the president?

all very interesting,….

what is Benen’s agenda? is he reporting the news or providing cover for his positions?

Feb 09, 2014 5:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
User21 wrote:
In 1972, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein refused to accept what the executive office was putting out. This resistance, and requirement for unadulterated proof led to the downfall of Nixon.

So why does a reporter like Benen, decide to give up? Should his readers want him to seek the truth even if it means finding out more information, even if there supposedly isn’t more information to be found according to the office.

I suspect that the person who get a hold of that individual within the ‘solemn circle’ would go on to win a Pulitzer, and go down in history for their investigative journalism,

So why don’t they do more? Have the press become politically motivated? Isn’t it supposed to be about the news? Period.

The IRS may have acted in a discriminatory way, but I am sure it got cleared before or while it was happening. Here is how it goes:

“Sir, we have a huge number of tea party groups filing for tax exemption.”
“Is there anything you can do?”
Well we could delay them, on the grounds we need more information.”
“Great. Do that and I will talk with him about it.”
“Okay, will do.”

Feb 09, 2014 6:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.