|IAEA seeks detonator clarification from Iran: sources||
The UN nuclear agency has received an explanation from Iran about the development of so-called Exploding Bridge Wire (EBW) detonators, and has asked for further clarification, Reuters quoted diplomatic sources as saying on Friday.
Iran’s response to the UN agency’s questions about the detonators is seen as its willingness to cooperate fully with the agency’s further investigation into Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iran denies allegations that it may have conducted nuclear weapons-related explosives tests, but has offered to help clear up the issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a Vienna-based UN body.
The United States says Iran’s readiness to tackle the IAEA’s concerns will be central to the success of efforts to reach a broader diplomatic accord to end the decade-old nuclear dispute, which Tehran and major global powers aim to sign by late July.
Iran provided information to the IAEA about the fast-functioning detonators, which it says are for civilian use, in late April, the sources said.
They said the IAEA had asked Iran follow-up questions, but they did not give details of these and there was no immediate comment from the IAEA or Iran.
“Answering questions about EBW is significant - assuming the answers are substantive and sincere - because it gets to the heart of one of the sticky issues involving allegations of past nuclear work of a possible military dimension,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank.
Iran wants an end to sanctions that have negatively affected its economy. After years of an increasingly hostile standoff with the West, last year’s election of the pragmatist Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president paved the way for a thaw.
Iran and the IAEA agreed in November on a step-by-step process to address allegations that Tehran may have been seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. The Islamic Republic says its nuclear program is a peaceful energy project.
As one of seven measures to be implemented by May 15, Iran agreed to provide information on the EBW detonators.
The mere fact that Iran agreed to address the issue was seen as a breakthrough as the IAEA has tried for years to investigate allegations that Iran may have worked on designing a nuclear warhead.
It was, however, one of the least difficult issues that were detailed in an IAEA report in late 2011 that provided a trove of intelligence information pointing to alleged past activities in Iran relevant to nuclear weapon development.
Western diplomats and experts say that Iran should still do more to address concerns about what the IAEA calls the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program.
Iran and the IAEA have yet to agree on new measures to be implemented after May 15, the diplomatic source said.
The Iran-IAEA discussions are separate from, but closely linked to, negotiations between Tehran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) on the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
“How Iran deals with its work on explosive bridge wire detonators ... may provide clues as to how forthcoming Tehran will be on PMD issues,” Robert Einhorn, a former top U.S. State Department official on Iran, said in a report.
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