DUBAI/VIENNA Iran has provided the U.N. nuclear watchdog with information about detonators with possible military applications, under an accord intended to allay concerns about Tehran's atomic activities, an Iranian news agency said on Sunday.
There was no immediate comment from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which for years has been trying to investigate suspicions that Iran may have researched how to make an atomic bomb. Iran, which is seeking an end to sanctions hurting its oil-dependent economy, denies any such work.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, last week told Reuters they did not know whether Iran had so far given the U.N. body the requested information about fast-functioning Exploding Bridge Wire (EBW) detonators, which can be used to help set off an atomic explosive device but also has civilian applications.
It was one of seven measures Iran agreed three months ago to implement by May 15 under a step-by-step plan for the IAEA to gain more insight into the country's nuclear work, but the first directly related to the U.N. body's long-stalled bomb probe.
As part of the same cooperation pact, IAEA inspectors are this week expected to visit Iran's Saghand uranium mine and the Ardakan uranium milling facility. Refined uranium can have both civilian and military nuclear uses.
Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency said on Sunday that the "EBW report has already been submitted" to the IAEA, as well as updated design information about the planned Arak heavy-water research reactor, which was also among the seven steps.
ISNA added: "The implementation of all seven steps agreed with IAEA will be finalized this week."
WEST WANTS MORE
The IAEA said in a 2011 report that Iran had told the agency that it had developed EBW detonators for civil and conventional military applications. But, "Iran has not explained ... its own need or application for such detonators," the IAEA report said.
Western officials say it is vital for Iran to address IAEA concerns about what it calls possible military dimensions to the country's nuclear program, as part of efforts to end a decade-old dispute that has raised fears of a new Middle East war.
They say information about detonators would be welcome but that Iran must do more in coming months to clear up concerns about suspected atomic bomb research. The two sides are expected to agree on new measures to be implemented after May 15.
"Key will be the next round of (possible military dimensions) topics agreed for discussion," one diplomat in Vienna said, making clear his expectation that the next phase of Iran-IAEA cooperation would include more such issues.
Another envoy said work to resolve the concerns should be faster. "More has to come," the diplomat said.
The IAEA's talks with Iran are separate from negotiations between Tehran and six world powers, but still closely linked as both sets of negotiations are focused on fears that Tehran may be trying to develop the capability to build nuclear bombs.
Iran says its program is entirely peaceful.
The powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia - are aiming to reach a long-term agreement with Iran by late July on scaling back its nuclear program in exchange for an end to international sanctions on Tehran.
(Reporting by Mehrdad Balali in Dubai and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Andrew Roche and Stephen Powell)