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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.