VIENNA The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said it was his duty to warn the world about suspected Iranian activities that point to plans to develop atomic bombs, maintaining pressure on Tehran ahead of rare talks between Iran and his agency expected this month.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made clear in an interview with Financial Times Deutschland that the U.N. body would press for full cooperation in meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran.
"What we know suggests the development of nuclear weapons," he was quoted as saying in comments published in German on Thursday, adding Iran had so far failed to clarify allegations of possible military links to its nuclear program.
"We want to check over everything that could have a military dimension."
An IAEA delegation, to be headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, is expected to seek explanations for intelligence information that indicates Iran has engaged in research and development relevant for nuclear weapons.
Tension between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program has increased since November, when the IAEA published a report that said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
"I have absolutely no reason to soften my report. It is my responsibility to alert the world," Amano said. "From the indicators I had, I draw the conclusion that it is time to call the world's attention to this risk."
Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told Reuters Tuesday Iranian officials were open to discussing "any issues" in the talks in Tehran, which he said were set for Jan 29-31. The IAEA has not yet confirmed the dates of the visit. [ID:nL6E8CH459]
Western diplomats, who have often accused Iran of using stalling tactics as it presses ahead with its nuclear program, have expressed doubt that the planned IAEA trip will lead to any major progress in the long-running nuclear dispute.
While U.N. inspectors regularly monitor Iran's declared nuclear facilities, their movements are otherwise restricted, and the IAEA has complained for years of a lack of access to sites, equipment, documents and people relevant to its probe.
Amano rejected Iranian media suggestions that his agency may have been partly responsible for the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist last week.
Iran has in the past accused the IAEA of leaking the names of nuclear scientists, making them potential targets for the security services of Iran's foes in the West and Israel.
"That is wrong. We did not publish his name. I did not know him," Amano said about the January 11 killing of Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan in a car bomb attack in Tehran. Iran has blamed Israel.
"I don't believe in violence. I believe in dialogue and conversation. I only expect from Iran that it cooperates."
(Reporting by Dana Schaefer and Marc Jones in Frankfurt; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Peter Graff)