DUBAI: Senior UN nuclear watchdog officials began talks in Iran yesterday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose mission is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, has been trying for a year to negotiate a so-called structured approach with Tehran that would give it access to officials, documents and sites.
Iran’s ISNA news agency reported the start of the talks at Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization headquarters in Tehran.
World powers will monitor the IAEA-Iran talks for any signs as to whether Tehran, facing intensifying sanctions pressure, may be prepared to finally start tackling mounting international concerns about its nuclear activity.
The six powers — the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain — and Iran may later in January resume their separate negotiations to try and reach a broader diplomatic settlement. They last met in June. The IAEA’s immediate priority was to visit the Parchin military base southeast of Tehran, where it suspects explosives tests relevant for production of nuclear weapons may have taken place, perhaps a decade ago, accusations Tehran denies.
Western diplomats say Iran has worked for the past year to remove any incriminating evidence from Parchin, but IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said late last year a visit would still be useful.
Before leaving Vienna, IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts said he was looking to finalize the agreement with Iran during the visit and that his team was ready to visit Parchin immediately if access were granted. Tehran says a framework accord with the IAEA should be reached first before any visit to Parchin is granted.
Western diplomats voiced skepticism in the run-up to yesterday talks that a breakthrough was in the offing. Even if there were a deal, they say, it would be remained to be seen how it was implemented in practice.