- The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Monday Iran
was being slow to cooperate with his agency's investigation into the Iranian
atomic program and that the inquiry could not continue indefinitely.
Diplomats have voiced doubt over whether the
outstanding issues in the U.N. investigation would be resolved before a broader
diplomatic agreement is reached between Iran and the United States, Britain,
France, China, Russia and Germany.
The seven countries have set a deadline of
late March for a framework deal and June for a comprehensive final settlement
that would curb Iran's nuclear activity to ensure it cannot be put to bombmaking
in return for the lifting of international sanctions that have hammered the
oil-based Iranian economy.
When asked about a time frame for the U.N.
inquiry running parallel to the higher-level negotiations, International Atomic
Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said: "It depends on the level and pace of
cooperation from Iran, I cannot tell by when...
"We have asked questions and the
questions are clear, so (Iran) can answer."
The Islamic Republic has yet to address two
outstanding issues relating to alleged explosives tests and other measures that
might have been used for nuclear bomb research which it should have explained
away by last August.
The West fears Iran wants to develop atomic
bomb capability. Tehran says its program is for peaceful nuclear energy only.
The IAEA remains ready to accelerate the
resolution of all outstanding issues, Amano added, but "this process cannot
continue indefinitely". Iran's leading negotiator Abbas Araqchi met with
Amano last week, promising swifter cooperation, but neither side has spelled out
Iran wants Western countries to swiftly lift
crippling economic sanctions in any deal curbing its nuclear program - one of
the sticking points in high-level negotiations continuing in Switzerland this
The IAEA is likely to monitor the
implementation of any deal between Iran and the six powers. Amano said he
proposed a 1.8-percent increase to the body's 344-million-euro ($386 million)
budget given increased demand for its services.
He reiterated deep concern about the nuclear
activities of North Korea, which quit the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1993. The IAEA has not had inspectors on the
ground there since they were expelled by North Korea in 2009.
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