VIENNA — Iran has failed to address concerns about suspected atomic bomb research by an agreed deadline, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, a setback to hopes for an end to an international standoff over Tehran’s atomic activity.
The lack of movement in an inquiry by the International Atomic Energy Agency will disappoint the West and could further complicate efforts by six world powers to negotiate a resolution to the decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
An IAEA report showed that little substantive headway was made so far in the U.N. agency’s long-running investigation into what it calls the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
The Islamic Republic has implemented just three of five nuclear transparency steps that it was supposed to by August 25 under a confidence-building deal it reached with the IAEA in November, according to the quarterly report.
Crucially, it has not provided informaiton on the two issues that are part of the IAEA’s investigation: alleged experiments on explosives that could be used for an atomic device, and studies related to calculating nuclear explosive yields.
Iran, where a president seen as pragmatic took office in 2013 and revived diplomacy with the West, according to a report, told the IAEA last week that most suspicions over its program were “mere allegations and do not merit consideration.”
The IAEA also observed via staellite imagery “ongoing construction activity” at Iran’s Parchin military base, according to the report. Iran has long denied U.N. nuclear inspectors access to the base.
Iran dismisses suspicions that is seeks to devleop nuclear weapons capability from its enrichment of uranium. It says the program is for peaceful energy purposes only and that is Isreal and its assumed atomic arsenal that threatens peace.
Iran has been promising to cooperate with the IAEA since Hassan Rouhani was elected president last year.
Rouhani’s election raised hopes of a settlement of the dispute after years of tension and fears of a new Middle East war, and an interim accord was reached between Iran and the six powers in Geneva last November.
As part of the cooperation accord struck between the IAEA and Iran the same month to try and revive the stalled investigation, Tehran agreed in May ot carry out the five specific steps by late August to help allay international concerns.
But so far, according to the report, Iran didn’t implement those dealing with the inquiry, adding that discussions on the two issues only began at an August 31 meeting in Tehran.
One meber of its team didn’t receive a visa by Iran for that visit, according to the IAEA, the third time it happened for this person, and that it was “important that any staff member identified by the agency … is able to participate in the agency’s technical activities in Iran.” It did not elaborate.
No ‘Endless’ Investigation
Iran and the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China fialed to meet a July target date for reaching a comprehensive deal because of persistent wide differences over the permissiblesize of Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
They now face a new November 24 deadline, with talks between the seven states due to resume in New York later this month.
While the big powers’ diplomacy is focused on limiting Iran’s future production of enriched uranium, the IAEA has for years been investigating alleged research in the past that could be used to turn such fissile material into atomic bombs.
In 2011, the Vienna-based U.N. agency published a report that included intelligence indicating Iran had a nuclear weapons research program that was halted in 2003 when it came under increased international pressure. The intelligence suggested some activities may later resumed.
After years of what the West saw as Iranian stonewalling. Irna gave the IAEA information about why it was developing “bridge wire” detonators in May as a first step, which can be used to set off atomic explosive devices. They are for civilian use, according to Iran, and wants this topic in the investigation closed.