First Published: 2013-01-16

 

IAEA in new bid to resolve long-running differences with Iran

 

Agency wants Iran to respond to what it calls ‘credible’ evidence of nuclear weapons research having been carried out until 2003.

 

Middle East Online

IAEA's hopes of reaching deal not high

TEHRAN - Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were back in Tehran early Wednesday to try to resolve differences with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

The eight-strong team, led by the UN agency's chief atomic inspector and deputy director Herman Nackaerts, was greeted at the airport by Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the ISNA news agency reported.

It was not clear who would represent Iran in meetings on Wednesday, but the office of top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is in charge of decisions regarding Tehran's atomic programme -- on behalf of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has final say on all key state matters.

On Tuesday, before flying out from the agency's base in Vienna, Nackaerts had called on Iran to be "constructive".

"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 said on Sunday "there still remain some pretty big disagreements" with Tehran.

The agency wants Iran to respond to 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."

Mehmanparast appeared to play down the chances that the IAEA team might get 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.

"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.

But 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 (62-acre) area, leading to Western accusations that Iran is destroying evidence.

Wednesday's talks will be closely monitored by the so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany. Their parallel negotiations with Tehran over the nuclear programme are currently stalled.

At their last meeting, held in June 2012 in Moscow, Tehran rejected P5+1 calls for it to scale back its nuclear enrichment activities, while asking for substantial sanctions relief.

Iran's economy is struggling to cope with punitive measures adopted by the US and the EU targeting its vital oil income and access to global financial systems.

On Tuesday, top lawmaker Aladin Boroujerdi repeated Tehran's demands, ISNA reported.

"The main focus of the next talks with the P5+1 should be on lifting the sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union," said Boroujerdi, who heads parliament's influential foreign policy committee.

Mehmanparast added on Tuesday that a much-debated religious decree against nuclear weapons by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was binding.

"The fatwa is of utmost importance in clarifying Iran's nuclear activities," he said, dismissing Western doubts that the fatwa only served a religious purpose and was not necessarily an obligation for the government.

 

Libya’s Derna emerges as new IS stronghold

Egypt to reopen Rafah border crossing Wednesday

UN chief calls for halt to Libya air strikes

Russia trims oil output

Lebanese diva Sabah passes away

Christians hold out in Syria second city despite Daesh threat

Egypt leader begins two-day trip to France

Tribesmen blow up Yemen’s main oil pipeline

Syrian air strikes on Raqa kill 63 civilians

17 killed in fatal Cairo building collapse

Egypt nabs five Salafist leaders

Essebsi leads Tunisia presidential vote

Paris pushing for 'safe zones' in war-torn Syria

New air strike hits Tripoli’s sole operational airport

Pentagon chief steps down

Saudi seeks to ‘knock out’ shale oil competitors from oil market

Death toll rises from Morocco flash floods

Yemen troops free 8 hostages from Al-Qaeda

Italy hails Egypt as 'strategic partner'

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension

Khartoum, Darfur rebels open ceasefire talks

Time runs out for biggest chance to resolve Iran nuclear standoff

Egypt leader heads to Italy

Morocco arrests six over online IS allegiance pledge

Iraqi forces retake areas near Iran border from jihadists

Southern Morocco storms claim eight lives

Marzouki, Essebsi set for runoff in Tunisia presidential vote

Biden wraps up Turkey visit without breakthrough on Syria

Sudan launches investigation into claims of 'mass rape' in Darfur village

Assad urges ‘real pressure’ on backers of 'terror'

Israel eyes powers to revoke rights of Arab residents

Iraq death sentence to ex- PM threatens to damage ties with powerful tribe

Iran hardliners resist possible nuclear deal in rare protest

After failure of boycott, Bahrain Shiite opposition resorts to accusations

Tunisia votes for president in first free and multi-candidate election

Hope for change and stability as Tunisia prepares to elect new president

Saudi detainee sent home as US speeds up Guantanamo repatriations

Economy and security top agenda of Sisi’s first European tour

Benghazi attack report clears Obama administration of serious charges

Voters bet on stability in crucial Bahrain elections

Hurdles remain high as Iran and world powers press on for nuclear pact

Shebab ‘revenge’ attack leaves 28 innocents dead in Kenya

Strains between Washington and Ankara despite declared agreement

Paypal teams up with AttijariWafa Bank to boost Morocco exports

UN begins sending winter aid to Iraq