Officials say clarifications on military dimension of Tehran’s nuclear program won’t be possible by June 30 deadline

In this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo, a worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)
In this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo, a worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)


WASHINGTON — World powers are prepared to accept a nuclear agreement with Iran that doesn’t immediately answer questions about past atomic weapons work, US and Western officials said. Washington has said such concerns must be resolved in any final deal.

After a November 2013 interim accord, the Obama administration said a comprehensive solution “would include resolution of questions concerning the possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program.”

But those questions won’t be answered by the June 30 deadline for a final deal, officials said, echoing an assessment by the UN nuclear agency’s top official earlier this week. Nevertheless, the officials said an accord remains possible. One senior Western official on Thursday described diplomats as “more likely to get a deal than not” over the next three weeks.

Much of Iran’s alleged work on warheads, delivery systems and detonators predates 2003, when much of Iran’s nuclear activity first came to light. But Western intelligence agencies say they don’t know the extent of Iran’s activities or if Iran persisted in covert efforts. An International Atomic Energy Agency investigation has been foiled for more than a decade by Iranian refusals to allow monitors to visit suspicious sites or interview individuals allegedly involved in secret weapons development.

Instead of resolving such questions this month, officials said the US and its negotiating partners are working on a list of future commitments Iran must fulfill in an agreement setting decade-long curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

The suspension of some sanctions would be tied to Iran finally answering all questions, giving world powers greater leverage, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the private discussions and demanded anonymity.

Senior diplomats from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran continued negotiations Thursday in Vienna.

Iran denies any work on or interest in nuclear weapons, insisting that its enrichment of uranium, plans for a heavy water reactor and various research activities are meant for power generation and other peaceful applications. It says pieces of evidence cited by the IAEA and others are forgeries, and officials including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have made several defiant statements about blocking monitors from accessing Iranian facilities and scientists.

“The repetition of such unsupported accusations has not added and will not add to their value and they do not merit consideration,” Iranian Ambassador Reza Najafi told the IAEA Thursday.

Critics of the emerging Iran deal have focused significantly on the issue of Iran’s past military work. They insist Iran must not only “come clean” on such activity for transparency’s sake, as past and present US administrations have long demanded, but that compliance with any accord can only be measured if Tehran provides a complete accounting of all its previous nuclear efforts. Critics contend that otherwise, the world wouldn’t have a full script of everything it needs to verify.

Any backtracking is likely to raise alarms with American allies in the Middle East and members of Congress, many of whom say the Obama administration already has conceded too much on permitted levels of Iranian nuclear activity, sanctions easing and other matters.

The US dropped its reference to “resolution” of past military work after an April 2 preliminary pact, instead saying that in a final deal Iran “will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the possibility military dimensions (PMD) of its program.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in following days that much remained to be negotiated, including an “access list” the Iranians would provide concerning sites and people of interest. “They’ve agreed to undertake this process,” she said, adding that the US “would find it very difficult to imagine” a final deal that doesn’t open up the Parchin military installation, a primary focus of nuclear investigators.

As reported by The Times of Israel