U.N. nuke agency notes progress on Iran program
Satellite image of part of the Iranian military complex at Parchin, about 20 miles southwest of Tehran. / Google Earth
VIENNA A senior U.N. official announced progress Friday in long-stalled efforts to resume a probe of suspicions that Iran may have worked to develop nuclear arms, saying the investigation could be restarted by early next year.
Herman Nackaerts of the International Atomic Energy Agency spoke of headway after returning from talks with Iranian officials in Tehran, saying his team was "able to make progress" and the IAEA expects to "start implementing" an agreement on the probe shortly after new talks in Tehran on Jan. 16Iran Nuclear Sites
He acknowledged that a key IAEA request a visit to a site linked to suspected nuclear activity was again denied. But he told reporters at Vienna airport that he expected IAEA experts to be allowed to go to Parchin and follow up on suspicions it might have been used as part of secret arms-related experiments once the probe is resumed.
In Tehran, Iran's state TV made no mention of progress, reporting only that there was no agreement on visiting Parchin. But Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh also said a new meeting was set for Jan. 16.
While Nackaerts' comments gave cause for some optimism, they were not the first instance of a senior IAEA official saying that the standoff was close to resolution.
Returning from Tehran talks more than five months ago, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said the two sides had agreed on "an almost clean text", saying a breakthrough deal would be signed soon. Follow-up IAEA-Iran meetings did not yield significant results.
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Iran says it does not want atomic arms and has justified a nearly yearlong delay in cooperating with the IAEA's probe by saying that a framework regulating such an investigation must be agreed on first. But as talks on such an agreement have dragged on, agency officials have complained that they may be nothing more than a delaying tactic.
They are particularly concerned that such delays can hurt their efforts to investigate Parchin. The IAEA suspects that Iran has conducted live tests of conventional explosives there that could be used to detonate a nuclear charge and cited satellite photos indicating a cleanup of the site, at a sprawling military base southeast of Tehran.
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