BEIRUT

Middle East

IAEA seeks detonator clarification from Tehran

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice delivers a speech during a visit to the Palmachim military base, south of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, on May 9, 2014.(AFP PHOTO/DAVID BUIMOVITCH)

VIENNA: The U.N. nuclear watchdog has received an explanation from Iran about the development of detonators that can help set off an atomic explosive device, and has asked for further clarification, diplomatic sources said Friday.

How Iran responds to the U.N. agency’s questions about so-called Exploding Bridge Wire detonators is seen as an important test of its willingness to cooperate fully with a long-stalled probe into suspected atomic bomb research.

Iran says allegations of such activity are baseless, but has offered to help clear up the issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a Vienna-based U.N. 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.

Iran wants an end to sanctions that are hurting its oil-dependent 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 be 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, mostly in vain, to investigate allegations that the Islamic Republic may have worked on designing a nuclear warhead.

It was, however, one of the least difficult issues that were detailed in a landmark IAEA report in late 2011 that provided a trove of intelligence information pointing to past activities in Iran relevant to nuclear weapon development.

Western diplomats and experts caution that Tehran must 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.

Iran’s discussions with the IAEA are separate from its negotiations with six world powers on a long-term settlement of the nuclear dispute, but both sets of talks are aimed at ensuring that it does not develop nuclear weapons.

“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.

Iran’s interim agreement in November with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia focused mainly on preventing it from obtaining nuclear material to build any future bomb, rather than on the question of whether it had sought atomic bomb technology in the past.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 10, 2014, on page 11.

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

Iran says allegations of such activity are baseless, but has offered to help clear up the issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a Vienna-based U.N. body.

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.

Iran and the IAEA have yet to agree on new measures to be implemented after May 15, the diplomatic source said.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here