VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has agreed on steps to clarify Western intelligence alleging that it secretly studied how to design nuclear bombs, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Wednesday, after earlier refusing to address the reports.
Iran had previously rejected the reports as baseless or forged and said exchanges with U.N. investigators on the matter had resolved it and there would be no more discussions. But the U.N. watchdog insisted Iran back up its denials with evidence.
“An agreement was reached during meetings in Tehran (on Monday and Tuesday) on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May,” International Atomic Energy Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in statement from IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
Iran had given an upbeat assessment on Tuesday of the two days of talks with Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s safeguards chief and top investigator, saying they were “positive” but not saying what was discussed.
Diplomats close to the IAEA had said the point of the talks was to get substantive Iranian responses to intelligence reports alleging illicit nuclear bomb research.
Iranian officials had said Heinonen’s visit was intended to “advance cooperation” with the IAEA, the U.N. body which monitors Iran’s declared nuclear activity and has been investigating the program since 2003.
Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful drive to produce electricity so that the world’s fourth-largest crude exporter can sell more of its oil and gas abroad.
However, it has failed to convince the West, which believes Tehran is seeking technology so it can build atomic weapons.
U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week vowed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, possibly by expanding sanctions. (Writing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)