Friday, Oct 24, 2014

Iran agrees to let IAEA expand its probe

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes a speech to military members in Tehran, Iran. (AP) Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes a speech to military members in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Press Trust of India | Tehran | Posted: February 9, 2014 5:00 pm | Updated: February 9, 2014 8:52 pm

The U.N. nuclear agency says Iran has agreed to let the agency expand its probe of Tehran’s nuclear activities. The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency says the two sides signed off this weekend in Tehran on seven practical measures to be implemented by Iran by May 15.

The IAEA statement gave no details on Sunday. The agency suspects that Iran worked secretly on nuclear arms, something Tehran denies. Their investigation has been stalled for more than six years. But the IAEA hopes to make progress under an agreement signed with Tehran in November that foresees a step-by-step approach to unresolved questions, starting with less sensitive issues and progressing to the arms-related queries. The talks are separate from negotiations between Iran and six world powers on Tehran’s known nuclear programs.

The UN atomic watchdog on Sunday started a second day of talks in Tehran on safeguards to ensure transparency on Iran’s nuclear drive and on allegations of its past weapons work. The talks were expected to continue into the afternoon, after a first day of meetings was described as “constructive” by Iran’s atomic organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi.

Iranian media have reported little details of the negotiations with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And there has been no comment from the IAEA team, comprised of chief inspector Tero Varjoranta and four experts who arrived in Tehran late on Friday. But the encounter is expected to broach allegations that, Iran’s nuclear work prior to 2003, or possibly since, had “possible military dimensions”.

The IAEA is also seeking access, which it has been denied for years, to the Parchin military facility where it suspects Tehran may have experimented with research related to atomic weapons development. IAEA experts held five hours of talks on Saturday with Iranian nuclear officials, led by Tehran’s IAEA envoy Reza Najafi, and assessed the implementation of a roadmap deal agreed on November 11. The deal required Tehran to take six practical steps that included visits to the unfinished site of a so-called heavy water research reactor in Arak and a uranium mine in the south.

Iran was also required to give information on future research reactors, identifying sites of new nuclear power plants, and clarification on Iranian statements regarding additional enrichment facilities and laser enrichment technology. Western powers and Israel suspect that Iran’s nuclear drive masks military objectives, a claim Tehran repeatedly denies.

The November deal, struck after two years of on-off talks, was separate from a landmark agreement reached with world powers the same month that has placed temporary curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities. Implementation of the IAEA deal began in December last year, when inspectors visited Arak, where the small unfinished heavy water reactor has been hit by delays. The site is of international concern because Iran could theoretically extract weapons-grade plutonium from spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility.

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