News / Middle East

Iran Moves to Cooperate in UN Nuclear Bomb Probe

FILE - A general view of the Arak nuclear power plant, 190 km southwest of Tehran.
FILE - A general view of the Arak nuclear power plant, 190 km southwest of Tehran.
Reuters
The U.N. nuclear agency said on Sunday that Iran had agreed to start addressing suspicions that it may have worked on designing an atomic weapon, a potential breakthrough in a long-stalled investigation into Tehran's atomic activities.
 
The development - although limited for now - marked a step forward in an international push to settle a decade-old dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran has maintained that its program is peaceful, while the West fears that Iran wants to develop atomic arms.
 
The deal could also send a positive signal to separate, high-stakes negotiations between Iran and six world powers which are due to start on Feb. 18 in Vienna, aimed at reaching a broader diplomatic settlement with the Islamic state.
 
Efforts to end years of hostile rhetoric and confrontation that could otherwise trigger a new war in the Middle East gained momentum with last year's election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as new Iranian president on a platform to ease Iran's international isolation.
 
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had agreed during talks in Tehran to take seven new practical measures within three months under a November transparency deal with the IAEA meant to help allay concern about the nuclear program.
 
For the first time, one of them specifically dealt with an issue that is part of the U.N. nuclear agency's inquiry into what it calls the possible military dimensions to Iran's atomic activities. Iran has repeatedly denied any such ambitions.
 
It said Iran would provide “information and explanations for the agency to assess Iran's stated need or application for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators.”
 
Although such fast-functioning detonators have some non-nuclear uses, they can also help set off an atomic device.
 
“It is an important issue and it is good that the agency can now tackle it,” former chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts said. But he made clear that much work remained in order to fully clarify the IAEA's concerns: “It is a first step in a long process.”
 
Faced with deadlock last year in its attempts to get Iran to cooperate with its investigation, the IAEA changed tactics and now seeks to gradually build mutual trust by starting with some of the less sensitive issues, diplomats say.
 
Suggesting that more difficult matters would have to wait a while longer, there was no mention in the IAEA's statement of its long-sought access to the Parchin military site, where it suspects explosives tests relevant for nuclear bombs may have been conducted a decade ago. Iran denies this.
 
Detonator development
 
The IAEA has been investigating accusations for years that Iran may have coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives and revamp a missile cone in a way suitable for a nuclear warhead. Iran says such claims are baseless and forged.
 
Other steps to be taken by Iran by May 15 include inspector access to the Saghand uranium mine and the Ardakan uranium ore milling plant, as well as updated design information about a planned reactor the West fears could yield weapons material.
 
Iran will also give information on the extraction of uranium from phosphates. Uranium can fuel nuclear power plants but can also provide the fissile core of a bomb if further refined.
 
The IAEA, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, says it needs such access and information to gain a more complete picture about Iran's nuclear program.
 
It wants “to have a complete understanding of Iran's uranium holdings,” said Olli Heinonen, another former chief IAEA inspector, now at Harvard University's Belfer Center.
 
The Iran-IAEA talks are separate from, though still closely linked to, the wider diplomacy between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia.
 
Shortly after Tehran and the IAEA signed their cooperation accord on Nov. 11, Iran and the six powers clinched an interim deal to curb its nuclear work in exchange for some sanctions easing, designed to buy time for the talks on a long-term deal.
 
The IAEA's investigation is focused on the question of whether Iran sought atomic bomb technology in the past and, if it did, to determine whether such work has since stopped.
 
A joint Iran-IAEA statement issued after the Feb. 8-9 discussions said the two sides held “constructive technical meetings” and that Iran had implemented six previous, initial steps, including access to two nuclear-related sites.
 
The IAEA had hoped to persuade Iran in the talks to finally start addressing its suspicions. While denying them, Iran has said it will work with the IAEA to clear up any “ambiguities.”
 
The issue of detonator development was mentioned in a report that the IAEA prepared in 2011, containing a trove of intelligence information about alleged activities by Iran that could be used in developing atomic arms.
 
“Given their possible application in a nuclear explosive device, and the fact that there are limited civilian and conventional military applications for such technology, Iran's development of such detonators and equipment is a matter of concern,” the IAEA said in the 2011 document.
 
It said Iran had told the U.N. agency in 2008 that it had developed such detonators for civil and conventional military applications. “However, Iran has not explained to the agency its own need or application for such detonators,” it said.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More