Last updated: 13 May, 2014

Iran and UN atomic watchdog tight-lipped after talks

Iran and the UN atomic watchdog IAEA were tight-lipped after talks aimed at improving transparency and clearing up long-standing allegations of Tehran’s past efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said late on Monday only that “progress was reviewed on the implementation of practical measures (to be taken by Iran) … agreed three months ago”.

Its statement “noted that Iran has taken several actions and that some related work continues. Discussions on additional practical measures to be implemented in the next steps are ongoing”.

Iran’s delegation, led by Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Reza Najafi, left the talks without speaking to reporters. Neither side said when the next meeting might take place.

The meeting comes ahead of the next round of parallel but linked talks this week, also in Vienna, between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday at the start of a visit to Washington that “France is determined to look for a long term diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis”.

– Enrichment talks ‘difficult’ –

But he cautioned that did “not mean, obviously, that we are ready to accept any solution.”

“Discussions on enrichment are and will be difficult,” Fabius told an American Jewish lobby group, AJC Global Jewish Advocacy.

“But our line is clear: a demanding approach is the only way to verify the exclusive peaceful purpose of the program.”

“France is ready for an agreement, but it is clear that we shall not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” the French minister added.

The IAEA has long been seeking answers from Iran over what it calls “overall, credible” evidence that before 2003, and possibly since, Tehran has conducted research into making nuclear weapons.

The Islamic republic has rejected such claims, saying they are based on faulty intelligence from the CIA and Israel’s Mossad — intelligence that it has not been allowed to see.

Some progress was made last year when Iran promised to clarify its use of Exploding Bridge Wire (EBW) detonators, devices which could theoretically be used in an atomic bomb but which also have a range of other uses.

The deadline to provide answers on this, and on six other steps to improve transparency such as providing more design information on Iran’s new Arak reactor under construction, is on Thursday.

Experts say other, much trickier questions remain to be resolved.

Other claims outlined in a major November 2011 IAEA report include alleged explosives testing at the Parchin military base near Tehran that the watchdog says would be “strong indicators” of missile development.

Iran and the six world powers aim to turn into a lasting accord a temporary deal from November under which Iran scaled back certain nuclear activities for six months in return for minor relief from painful UN and Western sanctions.

As part of this sought-after comprehensive accord, as well as reducing in scope its nuclear activities, the six powers want Iran to answer all the IAEA’s outstanding questions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to hold a working dinner with the powers’ main negotiator, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, on Tuesday before the talks start in earnest on Wednesday.