VIENNA (AFP) — The European Union and the United States challenged Tehran on Wednesday to disprove allegations that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons.
On the last day of a meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, western countries insisted the onus was on Iran to actively disprove the allegations, instead of simply dismissing them.
"They have to come back and respond in a serious way to these issues," the Norwegian Ambassador Ole Lundby told reporters.
"If they don't ... we may end up in a worse situation," he said. "Everyone has spent a lot of time and hope trying to put the past out of the way. If we don't do that, then we have serious problem. We'll reach a dead end."
The IAEA board meeting was held against the backdrop of the UN Security Council's decision Monday to slap further sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work.
EU countries had been hoping to table an anti-Iran resolution of their own to the IAEA board, but decided to drop it after failing to drum up sufficient support for it amid objections from Russia, China and developing countries.
The US ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, listed questions that were troubling western countries after detailed intelligence from a number of different independent sources was shown to the IAEA board last week.
Schulte said Iran must explain:
-- charts on a uranium conversion process different from Iran's declared activities.
-- a document on the casting and machining of uranium metal into the shape of warheads.
-- schematics of a Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle that in the opinion of the IAEA "is quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device".
-- remote explosives testing, including plans for underground detonations facilities and a separate firing facility 10 kilometres (six miles) away.
Speaking on behalf of Britain, France and Germany, British Ambassador Simon Smith dismissed Tehran's charge that it had not been given sufficient time to respond to the allegations.
"There can be no suggestion that any of these questions somehow came out of the blue," Smith said. "On the contrary, these are questions in which the agency has been seeking a substantive response from Iran for some time."
Smith complained that Tehran's answers had been "less than satisfactory", forcing the conclusion that Iran was deliberately being obstructive.
Norwegian envoy Ole Lundby said that most countries did not dispute Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy. But the onus was on Tehran to prove that there was no hidden military dimension to its atomic drive, he said.
The Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said that simple denials on Iran's part were not sufficient and that concrete proof was needed to show that the allegations were unfounded.
In his address to the board, Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, reiterated his charge that the intelligence was fake.
It was "just a bunch of worthless allegations and print-outs of an unknown laptop which has no authenticity and the possessor of them is unidentified and said to be dead," he said.
The information constituted "politically motivated propaganda" aimed at "tarnishing the positive atmosphere of cooperation" between Iran and the IAEA, Soltanieh said.
The US had repeatedly made "unfounded allegations" in the past in an effort to keep the Iranian nuclear dossier open, he added.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Soltanieh was evasive when asked whether Iran was willing to hold further talks with the EU on the nuclear issue.
"The nuclear issue belongs with the IAEA," he said.
"The IAEA has to do deal with it. No other international body should do it."
Nevertheless, he added: "We are going to have dialogue with all, including the European Union, and with the distinguished diplomat, Mr Solana. But talking about the nuclear issue belongs in Vienna."
Earlier in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a Security Council call for further talks with EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has been meeting Tehran on behalf of six world powers for almost two years.
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