IAEA to Report 'Little Progress' in Iran Investigation
The United Nations nuclear watchdog is expected to issue a report this week showing little progress is being made in its long-running investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Iran, diplomats told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.
The unnamed diplomats said the quarterly International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran was likely to confirm that Tehran failed to meet a late August deadline for answering questions about its atomic activities.
Western officials may see the lack of movement as a setback for broader efforts to end a decade-old dispute over a nuclear program which Iran says is peaceful but which they fear may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability.
The IAEA is expected to issue its confidential report to member states on Thursday or Friday, ahead of a September 15-19 meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.
There was no comment from the Vienna-based UN agency to the diplomats’ remarks.
Iran has promised to cooperate with the IAEA since Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013.
It agreed in May to carry out five specific steps by Aug. 25 to help allay international concerns, noted Reuters.
Iran promised to provide information on two issues that are part of the IAEA's inquiry into the possible military dimensions of the country's nuclear program: alleged experiments on explosives that could be used for an atomic device, and studies related to calculating nuclear explosive yields.
The diplomats said, however, that while Iran and the IAEA may have started discussing the two issues, there was as yet no sign that Tehran had provided the requested information.
The comments come hours after Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, Yuval Steinitz, warned that Iran “is closer than ever to nuclear capabilities”.
"What we see today is a very troubling picture. While Iran has agreed to several small concession, on all the issues touching the heart of the (nuclear) program, like uranium enrichment in the centrifuges, Iran hasn't agreed to budge even a millimeter," said Steinitz, who will head an Israeli delegation to Washington DC next week to petition U.S. officials to take stronger stance in renewed talks between major world powers and Iran.
"We oppose not only the possibility that Iran will be a nuclear-armed military state, but also to the very possibility that Iran will be a nuclear-threshold state," continued Steinitz.
The US and other world powers reached a controversial interim deal with Iran over its nuclear program last November, leading to the current negotiations over a comprehensive agreement. During the talks Iran agreed to limit some of its nuclear activities in order to receive sanctions relief.
However, Iran has been taking an increasingly aggressive line in demanding its "right" to enrich uranium, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently saying Iran "needs" 19 times more nuclear centrifuges than the amount being offered by world powers.
Negotiations have been leading to a July 20 target date, but they were recently extended until November 24, giving Iran more time to slowly advance its nuclear program. Talks are to open in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly opening on September 16.