June 5, 2008 / 3:17 PM / 10 years ago

Iran says answered bomb allegations, "matter over"

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran said on Thursday it had given U.N. investigators more than 200 pages of answers to questions about intelligence reports that it secretly researched how to make atom bombs and declared “the matter is over”.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a news conference in Tehran May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

But Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Tehran would heed any requests for clarification after the IAEA chief demanded “full disclosure”, a call broadly endorsed by a 35-nation agency Board of Governors meeting this week.

Tehran had turned over “more than 200 pages of explanations and documents” and held more than 70 hours of talks with U.N. inspectors, Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said, denying his government had issued only empty denials.

“We left no question unanswered. We have done our job. This matter is over,” he said as the four-day meeting ended.

But, he told reporters: “Some of them ... are under evaluation and assessment (by the) agency... If they have any questions we will answer them. The trend of removing the ambiguities will continue. This is our policy.”

Soltanieh also said Iran summarized its points in 30 pages of documents passed to IAEA governors. “Quite simply the whole allegations are baseless. Nobody needs to prove it,” he said.

A Western diplomat called Iran’s move a “publicity stunt, certainly no substitute for substantive answers the IAEA needs”.

Western powers suspect Iran wants to divert nuclear energy into building atomic bombs. Iran, an oil-producing giant, says its uranium enrichment program is only for electricity generation so it can export more crude.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran for hiding nuclear work from the IAEA in the past and for refusing to suspend enrichment in exchange for trade benefits.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog has been pressing Iran for some time for answers on mainly Western intelligence allegations that it covertly studied how to design a nuclear weapon.

Iran has dismissed the intelligence, which diplomats say was provided by around 10 nations although mainly the United States, as baseless, forged or irrelevant. But IAEA officials say Iran has yet to corroborate its denials with credible evidence.

A May 26 IAEA report said Iran seemed to be withholding information needed to explain indications that it linked programs to process uranium, test high explosives and modify a missile cone in a way suitable for a nuclear warhead.

Soltanieh heaped derision on the documentation, much of which came from a laptop spirited out of Iran by a defector. He said the papers’ lack of “classified” stamps and official letterhead of Tehran’s defense ministry showed they were bogus.

Gregory Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, held out little hope of a breakthrough with Iran this year.

“Whoever (the next U.S. president) steps into the White House on January 21 is going to face this problem,” he said.

additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna; editing by Sami Aboudi

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