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Iran put under pressure by the West to answer questions on nuclear programmes

Tehran maintains that its nuclear programme is peaceful

The West pressured Iran on Wednesday to tackle suspicions that I may have begun designing an atomic bomb.

At a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), both the US and EU members emphasised their support for the efforts of a UN watchdog to investigate long-running allegations of possible nuclear arms research being conducted by Iran.

The US said resolving the issue is central to the success of talks surrounding a final deal over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Last month, Tehran agreed to answers the UN agency’s questions surrounding its development of fast-acting detonators with scope for both military and civilian use.

While this was seen as positive by Western officials at the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board in Vienna, they made it clear they expect more from Iran.

Iran continues to deny Western allegations that it is seeking to develop the capability to make atomic arms, saying its nuclear programme 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.”

The IAEA inquiry is separate from but complementary to higher-level political talks between the Middle Eastern country and six world powers who intend to see Tehran’s nuclear energy programme  proceed in a way it cannot be used for bombmaking.

The US ambassador to the IAEA, Joseph Macmanus, said it was critical for Iran to address substantively all international concerns about the so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) of the country's nuclear programme.

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 recognise that.”

The EU echoed US sentiments in a statement urging Iran to cooperate with investigators by giving the agency access to “all people, documents and sites requested.“

The outcome follows comments from Iran's foreign minister who said the West "cannot entertain illusions" of Iran stopping its uranium enrichment programme, after calls for the US to dismantle Iranian reactors from Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Additional reporting by Reuters