IAEA: time to tackle hard issues with Iran

U.N. atomic watchdog head Yukiya says it is time to tackle “more difficult” issues with Iran after recent progress

Published: Updated:

It is time to tackle “more difficult” nuclear issues such as allegations of Iran’s past weapons work after recent progress, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog told Agence France-Presse in an interview.

“We started with measures that are practical and easy to implement, and then we move on to more difficult things,” said Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“We certainly wish to include issues with ‘possible military dimensions’ in future steps ... We have already discussed it and will continue to discuss it at the next meeting” between the IAEA and Iran on Feb. 8, he said.

An agreement with the IAEA towards improved oversight over Iran’s program included six steps such as this week’s visit by IAEA inspectors to the Gachin uranium mine and to a new reactor plant at Arak in December.

But the deal, separate to an accord struck with world powers on Nov. 24 in Geneva, made no specific mention of long-standing allegations that prior to 2003, and possibly since, Iran’s nuclear work had what the IAEA calls “possible military dimensions.”

Two years of talks between the IAEA and Iran over these accusations, detailed in a controversial IAEA report in November 2011 and consistently denied by Iran as being based on faulty intelligence, went nowhere.

But Amano, 66, told AFP that Iran has not been let off the hook, saying that the Nov. 24 accord with world powers made clear that “all past and present issues” must be resolved.

Meanwhile, to give diplomacy a chance, the White House was successful in stopping a new round of sanctions against Iran.

Several Democratic senators who previously backed a bipartisan sanctions bill publicly stepped back after Obama threatened a veto during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

There are U.S. officials who suspect that the November interim dream will allow Iran to develop nuclear arms.

On Thursday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham dismissed as “unrealistic and unconstructive” comments by Obama that international sanctions linked to its nuclear program had forced Tehran to the negotiating table.

Afkham also rejected Obama’s assertion that diplomacy had opened a window which could forestall any possible nuclear weapons drive by Iran.

Date set for next talks

Meanwhile, talks between Iran and six world powers will be held in New York on Feb. 18, a Russian diplomat said on Friday, according to the Interfax news agency.

“Agreement has been reached that the next meeting at the level of political directors will take place on Feb. 18 in New York,” Interfax quoted Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Foreign Ministry’s security and disarmament department, as saying.