UN team begins nuclear talks in Iran
TEHRAN (AFP) – Experts from the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency began intensive talks in Tehran on Wednesday to seek a way forward in resolving perennial concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, media reports said.
Iranian officials and the eight-strong team, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) chief nuclear inspector Herman Nackaerts, kicked off the negotiations to “find a solution to concerns and questions raised by the IAEA”, the ISNA news agency reported.
The inspectors arrived early Wednesday, and were greeted at the airport by Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who according to ISNA will represent Tehran in the talks.
On Tuesday, before flying out from the agency’s base in Vienna, Nackaerts had called on Iran to be “constructive”.
He also repeated “hope” that Iran would grant access to Parchin, a military base near Tehran where the agency’s experts suspect Iran could have carried out experiments with explosives capable of triggering a nuclear weapon.
“Throughout this process, the director general has always said that we are approaching these talks in a constructive spirit,” he told reporters.
“Also this time we are approaching it in the same spirit, and we trust that Iran will work with us in the same spirit,” he added.
But the IAEA’s hopes of reaching a deal are not high.
IAEA head Yukiya Amano said Friday he was “not necessarily optimistic”, while a Western diplomat told AFP on Sunday “there still remain some pretty big disagreements” with Tehran.
The IAEA, in a similar visit to Tehran in mid-December, failed to reach a final agreement for a “structured approach” for the Islamic republic to address what it calls “overall, credible” evidence of nuclear weapons research having been carried out until 2003 – and possibly since then.
Iran vehemently denies having ever sought an atomic bomb.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that the government hoped to conclude a comprehensive agreement with the IAEA on Wednesday.
But Ramin Mehmanparast said that would only be possible if the agency recognised Iran’s “nuclear rights”, while playing down the chances that the IAEA team might get access to Parchin.
“Parchin has no connection with Iran’s nuclear activities,” Mehmanparast said. Access to it could be discussed, but only in the context of a possible agreement, he added.
The IAEA has pointed to new information uncovered since its last visits to the site in 2005.
They include satellite evidence that the earth has been scraped and removed over a 25-hectare area, leading to Western accusations that Iran is destroying evidence.