VIENNA/DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran is “in the process” of completing measures on transparency in its nuclear research that were agreed with the U.N. atomic agency, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying, suggesting Tehran had at least partly met a Monday deadline for cooperation.
Atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi did not give details in remarks reported by the official IRNA news agency. Those remarks came a few days after diplomatic sources in Vienna told Reuters the U.N. watchdog’s investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Iran appeared to be making only limited headway.
Western officials say Iran must address the questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They say that would be an important boost for parallel diplomatic efforts to end the dispute over a nuclear program the country says is peaceful.
Under an accord reached by the U.N. agency and Iran in November in an attempt to revive the long-stalled investigation, Tehran agreed in May to carry out five specific steps by Aug. 25 to help allay international concerns.
They include providing information about two issues - for example, alleged explosives experimentation - that are part of the IAEA’s inquiry into what it calls the possible military dimensions of Iran’s atomic activities.
“They have five questions and demands ... some are completed and others are in the process of being completed,” IRNA quoted Salehi as saying, without elaborating on what these were.
The IAEA earlier said it would not comment on the issue on Monday. Diplomats say it may only release details of any Iranian response in its next quarterly report, expected next week.
Washington and its allies have accused Iran of seeking to develop an atomic weapons capability. Iran has dismissed the accusations, saying its work is focused on generating electricity and other peaceful projects.
The Islamic Republic has promised to cooperate with the IAEA since Hassan Rouhani, widely seen as a pragmatist, was elected Iranian president in mid-2013.
But diplomatic sources said on Friday that they did not believe Iran had given the IAEA the requested information yet, casting doubt on whether Iran would take all of the agreed action by this week’s deadline.
They said there was still time for Iran to respond to the questions, noting that it had occasionally waited until the last minute to make concessions in the past, and that Tehran might also provide the information a few days late.
Western diplomats say Iran needs to help clear up the IAEA’s suspicions if it wants to reach a broader diplomatic deal in the separate negotiations with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia.
Those talks - which in July were extended until Nov. 24 - are focused on persuading Iran to curb its atomic activities. In exchange, the West would lift sanctions that are hurting Iran’s oil-dependent economy.
After years of what the West saw as Iranian stonewalling, Iran as a first step in May gave the IAEA information about why it was developing exploding bridge wire detonators, which can be used to set off atomic explosive devices. Iran says they are for civilian use.
The areas that the IAEA wants Iran to address were listed in a report published by the watchdog in 2011. That included a trove of intelligence indicating a concerted weapons program that was halted in 2003, when Iran came under increased international pressure. The intelligence also suggested some activities may later have resumed.
Editing by Larry King