VIENNA — The UN nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday it hoped to gain long-sought access to the Parchin military site during a visit to Iran this week aimed at unblocking its investigation into suspected atom bomb research in the Islamic state.
The International Atomic Energy Agency will seek to nail down a framework deal with Iran in Wednesday’s talks in Tehran that would enable it to relaunch its inquiry, IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts said.
“We are approaching these talks in a constructive spirit ... and we trust that Iran will work with us in the same spirit,” he said at Vienna airport before his team departed for Tehran for a new round of what have long been fruitless negotiations.
World powers striving to resolve a decade-old dispute over Iran’s atomic work and avert the threat of a new Middle East war will scrutinise the IAEA-Iran talks for any indication of an Iranian readiness to finally start addressing their concerns.
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.
Israel — a US ally believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal — has threatened military action if diplomacy and economic sanctions intended to rein in Iran’s uranium enrichment programme do not resolve the stand-off.
Iran, a major oil producer, says its nuclear work is an entirely peaceful project to generate an alternative source of energy for a rapidly expanding population.
The IAEA, whose mission it is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, has been trying for a year to negotiate a so-called structured approach with Tehran that would give it access to sites, officials and documents in Iran.
The agency said after a previous meeting with Iran in mid-December that progress had been made and that it expected to conclude the agreement in the January talks.
“We are aiming to finalise the structured approach to resolving the outstanding issues on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme,” Nackaerts said.
Western diplomats were sceptical of the prospects for a breakthrough in view of what they see as years of Iranian stonewalling of the IAEA’s concerns. Even if there were a deal, it remained to be seen how it would be implemented, they said.