January 13, 2008 / 3:05 PM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX: Key issues in U.N. bid to curb Iran nuclear program

(Reuters) - The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Sunday that Iran has agreed to answer lingering questions about its past secret nuclear work within a month during high-level talks in Tehran.

U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei met top Iranian leaders last week to push for swifter cooperation with efforts to clarify its disputed atomic energy program.

Following is an outline of the remaining issues about the program after four years of investigation, followed by issues clarified under a transparency plan agreed last August.


— The IAEA has U.S. intelligence indicating Iran has tried to “weaponize” nuclear materials by linking work on processing uranium ore, tests on high explosives and design of a missile warhead.

— After long rejecting the information as propaganda, Iran has begun substantive talks with IAEA experts on the matter.

— A subsequent U.S. intelligence report last month said Iran apparently stopped a bomb program in 2003. But Western diplomats remain skeptical of Iran’s readiness to address weaponization fully for fear of self-incrimination.

— Inspectors want credible explanations for traces of highly-enriched — bomb-grade — uranium (HEU) found on equipment at physics research sites. The IAEA accepted Iranian explanations about other HEU traces found earlier that they came with equipment it had imported.


— The IAEA wants Iran to observe its Additional Protocol, which permits short-notice inspections at locations beyond declared nuclear sites.

— The measure, which would allow access to workshops where Iran is developing an advanced enrichment centrifuge, is needed for the IAEA to verify there is no parallel activity geared to yielding bombs, rather than the goal of Iran’s declared program — electricity. Without it, the IAEA cannot verify Iran’s nuclear work is wholly peaceful.

— Iran has refused to suspend uranium enrichment despite resolutions by the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors demanding it do so to defuse mistrust. Instead, it has rapidly expanded an underground centrifuge production plant.

— Last April Iran stopped giving the IAEA advance design data on planned nuclear sites in retaliation for sanctions. The IAEA has repeatedly urged Iran to reconsider the move.


— Iran broadly clarified when and how it launched its program by obtaining blueprints and parts for centrifuge enrichment machines in the 1980s and 1990s from the then-nuclear black market network of Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan.

— Iran turned over a Khan network manual roughly outlining how to mould uranium metal into spheres for nuclear warheads. Iran had previously refused to let inspectors make copies for investigative purposes, and said that it never used the manual.

— Iran accounted for experiments with plutonium, a prime ingredient in atom bombs, enough for the IAEA to conclude they did not pose a concern about weaponization.

Reporting by Mark Heinrich; Editing by David Cutler

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