After years of refusal, Iran said on Thursday that it is ready to discuss allegations that it was involved in secret nuclear weapons work.
The Associated Press cited two diplomats who said that Iranian officials had suggested they were ready to talk about the issue during recent meetings with officials of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report added that a senior UN nuclear agency team will visit Tehran on January 28 following Iran’s announcement.
According to the report, diplomats have previously said that IAEA officials were discussing such a trip with their Iranian counterparts, but before the diplomats’ comments no date — or indication that Iran was ready to talk about the allegations — had been mentioned.
Tehran has blocked the IAEA’s attempts to follow up on U.S. and other intelligence alleging covert Iranian work on nuclear arms for more than three years. The Islamic Republic dismissed the charges as baseless and insisted its nuclear activities were peaceful and under IAEA purview.
In November, the IAEA released a report saying it had credible intelligence Iran is seeking nuclear weapons technology.
“The agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” the IAEA report said.
“After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. This information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
AP reported that Iran continues to deny the charges and no change in its position is expected during the Tehran talks with IAEA officials, but even a decision to enter a discussion over the allegations would be a major departure from outright refusal to talk about them.
Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, declined to say what would be discussed in Tehran. He told AP that it was too early to go public with details.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Iran reacted angrily to the assassination of its scientist a day earlier. The scientist, who was involved in the petroleum industry, was killed in a car bombing Wednesday in a blast that rocked Tabi Square in northern Tehran, near a university.
A website identified with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran is preparing its own answers to the string of assassinations of Iranian scientists, adding those responsible had better start staying awake at night.
The website specifically blamed Israel for the killings, saying that Israel wasn’t the only country that could undertake long-distance proxy wars. “We too can send our agents to kill people in their sleep,” the site quoted an unnamed official as saying.