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Atomic Energy Chief: Iran Hasn't Resolved Questions

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The troubled relationship between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't appear to be getting any better.

Back in February, senior agency delegations traveled twice to Iran to clarify its concerns about possible nuclear weapons work.

And on Monday, the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, said Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation that would allow the agency to give credible assurances that Iran's nuclear work is entirely peaceful.

"The agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," Amano said in Vienna, where he was meeting with the agency's board of governors. "I had hoped to be able to inform this board that substantive progress had been made. However, despite intensive discussions, there was no agreement on a structured approach to resolve these issues."

Monday's developments in Vienna came as President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Israel says time is running out to act against Iran before it develops a nuclear bomb. The United States, while also expressing serious concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, says it believes that sanctions against Iran should be given more time. President Obama stressed that the U.S. was determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

"The United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security," Obama told Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Iran's leaders insist the nuclear program has no military dimensions.

IAEA Wants More Information

The IAEA's list of the concerns about Iran is well known: the possible production of neutron initiators and other triggers for a nuclear explosion; and suspected work on shaping uranium metal, a possible component of a bomb's core.

The agency's analysts are especially concerned about tests that may have taken place at a military base at Parchin, just southeast of the capital Tehran. On two recent occasions, the IAEA asked to visit Parchin. Both times it was rebuffed.

"We are aware that there are some activities at Parchin, and it makes us believe that going there sooner is better than later," Amano said.

His agency has information — in part based on satellite photos — that Iranian authorities may have removed evidence of explosive tests at the Parchin site.

In recent reports, the agency said it believed Iran engaged in a full-scale nuclear weapons program until 2003, when the project came to a halt.

But the agency says it has credible evidence that work on aspects of nuclear weapons technology may have continued after 2003, and that some of that work may be taking place today.

Hardliners Dominate Iranian Elections

Despite all the talk internationally about Iran's nuclear activities, the big news topic in Iran is the parliamentary election that was held Friday.

Several thousand candidates vied for 290 seats in the parliament. Almost all were conservatives of one stripe or another. Reformists were either banned or boycotted the vote.

For some, the election was seen as part of an ongoing contest for power between the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Iran's news media are reporting that it was hardly a contest. Supporters of Khamenei are said to have soundly defeated partisans of Ahmadinejad. Local news media quoting the interior ministry saying 75 percent of the Khamenei candidates won seats.

Over the weekend, the Interior Minister announced that turnout was a relatively high 64 percent. But some critics of the regime have questioned the figure, suspecting the actual turnout was much lower.

The hostility toward Ahmadinejad among conservatives runs so deep now that the current parliament ordered him to appear soon to answer questions about his administration, a possible first step to impeachment.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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