VIENNA: Western powers pressed Iran on Wednesday to tackle suspicions that it may have worked on designing an atomic bomb and the United States said the issue would be central to the success of talks on a final settlement over Tehran's nuclear program.
At a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Washington and the European Union underlined their support for the U.N. watchdog's efforts to investigate long-running allegations of possible nuclear arms research by Iran.
The IAEA inquiry is separate from but complementary to higher-level political talks between Iran and six world powers aimed at a deal on the overall scope of Tehran's nuclear energy program to ensure it cannot be diverted into bombmaking.
In potentially a significant advance for the IAEA's probe, Tehran agreed last month to address one of many topics the U.N. agency wants answers on – the development of fast-acting detonators with both military and civilian applications.
But while this was welcomed by Western officials at the closed-door session of the IAEA's 35-nation governing board in Vienna, they made clear the Islamic Republic must do much more.
The U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Joseph Macmanus, said it remained critical for Iran to address substantively all international concerns about the so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) of the country's nuclear program.
A "satisfactory resolution of PMD issues will be critical to any long-term comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear issue," Macmanus said, according to a copy of his statement.
He later told reporters: "It is a central element to this negotiation, and all parties recognize that."
The 28-nation European Union voiced a similar line in its statement: "We urge Iran to cooperate fully with the agency regarding PMD issues, and to provide the agency with access to all people, documents and sites requested."
Iran denies Western allegations that it is seeking to develop the capability to make atomic arms, saying its nuclear program is a peaceful project to produce electricity.
"In our view, those claims are baseless and we haven't received any substantiated document in that regard," Iranian Ambassador Reza Najafi told a news conference. "However, we continue to work with the agency trying to remove ambiguities."