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.

 

Yemen warring parties 'closer' to agreement

Major assaults target IS jihadists in Iraq, Syria

Netanyahu forms ultra-nationalist Israel government

New Afghan Taliban leader named

Female Emirati pilot issues rallying cry to young women

At least 5 drown off Libya coast

Coalition airstrike kills six Yemen civilians 'by mistake'

Erdogan chairs first meeting of new Turkey cabinet

Pope prays to 'convert hearts' of ISIS extremists

Egypt expels French journalist amid crackdown on media

Israeli rights group gives up on army complaints system

Hamas-led council backs executions without Abbas approval

Syrian base used by Russia damaged in IS attack

Kurdish, Arab forces announce anti-IS offensive north of Syria's Raqa

Palestinian PM dismisses Netanyahu proposal

Israel PM's travel expenses under scrutiny

EgyptAir victims' relatives give samples for DNA tests

Iran sends new delegation to Saudi for hajj talks

Hardline cleric elected head of Iran's Assembly of Experts

Civilians trapped as Fallujah siege tightens

Iraq's Fallujah offensive draws attention from embattled PM

Turkey incoming PM unveils cabinet

US, Russia scramble to save Syria truce

Libyan coastguards intercept 550 bound for Europe

Campus bomb kills two in Yemen's Sanaa

Saudi soldier killed in landmine blast on Yemen border

Over 148 killed in IS bombings in Syria regime heartland

Iraq forces battle IS jihadists to retake Fallujah

Erdogan advisor says Turkey could suspend EU deals

Iraq launches military operation to retake Fallujah

Oil prices dip as Iran says no to output freeze

Skepticism ahead of Istanbul humanitarian summit

Sudan steps up pressure for exit of Darfur peacekeepers

UN Palestinian agency says half its schools hit by conflict

Bombs kill more than 120 in Syria regime strongholds

Netanyahu rejects French peace initiative

Gunmen kill 8 worshipers in Darfur

India in deal to turn Iran port into trade hub

Turkey's incoming PM working on new cabinet

Israel lifts ban on Gaza cement deliveries

Yemen warring parties meet after long pause

Egypt enlists submersible to search for EgyptAir crash clues

Tunisia's Ennahda reelects Ghannouchi as party chief

At least 20 dead in Yemen suicide bombing

Syria rebels give truce brokers 48 hours to end regime offensive