Iran Nuclear Talks: U.N. Watchdog To Press Iran For Access In Nuclear Probe

06/08/2012 04:47 am ET | Updated Aug 07, 2012

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA, June 8 (Reuters) - Iran and the United Nations nuclear watchdog began a new round of talks on Friday in an attempt to seal a deal to resume a long-stalled probe into suspected atomic weapon research in the Islamic state.

The United States, European powers and Israel want to curb Iranian atomic activities they suspect are intended to produce bombs. Tehran says the aims of its nuclear programme are purely civilian.

World powers will be watching the IAEA-Iran meeting in Vienna closely to judge whether Tehran is ready to make concessions before its broader talks with them later this month in Moscow on their decade-old nuclear dispute.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will press Iran for an agreement that would give its inspectors immediate access to the Parchin military complex, where it believes explosives tests relevant for the development of nuclear bombs have taken place.

Iran has said it will work with the U.N. agency to prove that such allegations are "forged and fabricated".

Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh smiled but declined to comment to reporters as he entered the IAEA's headquarters in the Austrian capital for his meeting with senior agency officials.

Both Iran and the IAEA say significant progress has been made on the so-called "structured approach" document that would set the overall terms for the IAEA's investigation.

But differences remain on how the IAEA should conduct its probe, and the United States said this week it doubted whether Iran would give the U.N. agency the kind of access to sites, documents and officials it needs.

"I'm not optimistic," Robert Wood, the acting U.S. envoy to the IAEA, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the U.N. agency's governing board. "I certainly hope that an agreement will be reached but I'm not certain Iran is ready."

Mark Hibbs, a nuclear proliferation expert of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he "strongly doubted" there would be a final agreement on Friday.

"There are a number of issues that have not been resolved," he said.

Western scepticism was reinforced by defiant remarks by Soltanieh, who accused the U.N. body on Wednesday of acting like a Western-manipulated spy service and said Iran's military activities were none of its business.

The Iranian envoy said Iran would "not permit our national security to be jeopardised", suggesting it might limit the scope of the U.N. inspectors' investigation.

A European diplomat said Soltanieh's remarks signalled Iran would be in no mood to compromise in Friday's Vienna talks.

Western officials, who suspect Iran is dragging out the two sets of talks to buy time for its nuclear programme, say the value of any deal will depend on how it is implemented.


The European Union said the IAEA should be free to conduct its probe in an open way and not be forced to close areas of inquiry prematurely, suggesting this may still be a bone of contention.

"The Agency must be able to revisit areas as their work progresses and as new information becomes available," the 27-nation EU said in a statement to the IAEA's 35-nation board.

The IAEA's immediate priority is gaining access to the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran, where it believes Iran built a steel vessel in 2000 for high explosives tests and may now be cleaning the site of any incriminating evidence.

Iran says Parchin is a conventional military facility and has dismissed such suggestions as "ridiculous."

Diplomats and analysts say Iran may offer the IAEA increased cooperation as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with world powers, which resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus and are to continue in the Russian capital on June 18-19.

Those talks are aimed at defusing tension over Iran's nuclear programme that has led to increasingly tough Western sanctions on Iran, including an EU oil embargo from July 1, and created fears of a war in the region.

Full transparency and cooperation with the IAEA is one of the elements the world powers - the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany - are seeking from Iran.

But they also want Iran to halt its higher-grade uranium enrichment, which Tehran says it needs for a research reactor but which also takes it closer to potential bomb material.

For its part, Iran wants sanctions relief and international recognition of what it says is its right to refine uranium.

"Parchin access is not among the key concessions that the six powers are seeking from Iran in Moscow," said nuclear proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank in London.

"They are focused on confidence-building measures that would limit Iran's ability to make a sprint for a nuclear weapon." (Editing by Andrew Heavens)

06/19/2012 9:05 AM EDT

Moscow talks make little progress.

MOSCOW — A top Russian official made a last-ditch effort to save talks over Iran's nuclear program from collapse Tuesday, holding a meeting with Iran's chief envoy.

But diplomats said the negotiations remained deadlocked as they went into a second and possibly final day, with the presidents of the United States and Russia urging Iran to agree to curb nuclear activities that could be turned toward arming warheads and Iran demanding a lifting of sanctions crippling its oil industry.

Read more on HuffPost World.

06/18/2012 12:09 PM EDT

Iran, West start nuclear talks.

MOSCOW, June 18 (Reuters) - World powers began two days of talks with Iran on Monday to try to end a decade-long stand-off over Tehran's nuclear programme and avert the threat of a new war in the Middle East.

In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran would be prepared to stop enriching uranium to a higher level - a process that could be used to make nuclear arms - if the six powers agreed to meet its needs for the fuel. But it is not clear how much influence Ahmadinejad has over the negotiations and whether his remarks reflect Tehran's position in the talks.

Read the full article on HuffPost World.

06/13/2012 6:50 PM EDT

All proposals on the table.

TEHRAN, Iran -- Proposals from both Iran and the group of six world powers will be on the table for nuclear talks in Moscow next week, not just the West's demand to halt Iran's highest level uranium enrichment, Iran's top negotiator said Wednesday.

Read more on HuffPost World.

06/08/2012 10:20 AM EDT

New round of nuke talks.

VIENNA, June 8 (Reuters) - Iran and the United Nations nuclear watchdog began a new round of talks on Friday in an attempt to seal a deal to resume a long-stalled probe into suspected atomic weapon research in the Islamic state.

Read the full story on HuffPost World.

06/08/2012 7:33 AM EDT

Ahmadinejad: 'Iran won't build nuclear bomb.'

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's president says Iran has no intention of building nuclear weapons, but fear would not deter it if it decided to make them.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments suggest a toughening of Iran's position ahead of June 18-19 talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear program.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany want Iran to shut down its highest level uranium enrichment facilities. Ahmadinejad's remarks suggest Iran would refuse.

Ahmadinejad made the comments during a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday in China. His remarks were posted on his website.

The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment. (AP)

06/06/2012 12:03 PM EDT

Smuggling of epic proportions

The BBC reports that $20 billion worth of goods -- the equivalent of nearly 30 percent of the country’s annual official trade -- are smuggled into Iran's borders every year.

Watch the full story here.

06/03/2012 3:11 PM EDT

Clinton draws no conclusions

STOCKHOLM — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she's not drawing any conclusions about what effect the latest hash words from Iran might have on the potential success of upcoming nuclear talks in Moscow.

Read the full story here.

05/31/2012 2:08 PM EDT

Iran's Forrest Gump.

Iranian-born Reza Baluchi is a regular Forrest Gump. Ten years ago he ran away from Iran. He’s run across the United States twice since then, once around its perimeter. Yet now he’s planning his biggest journey of all, CNN reports, a run around the world that will take him through his home country once more.

It started when he ran away from home at the age of eight. Later he ran away from his homeland, Iran, and spent seven years on a bicycle, pedaling 49,700 miles across 55 countries.

In 2002, he reached America. He now lives in a tent in Death Valley.

It's been nearly 10 years since Reza Baluchi escaped from Iran. He has run across the United States twice and around its perimeter once. He sets out on every journey with the same mission: to spread a message of world peace.

Read the full story here.

05/31/2012 2:01 PM EDT

Jackson Pollock painting returned.

After being seized by Iranian customs over a monetary dispute, a painting by Jackson Pollock has been returned to the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran, the BBC reports.

The BBC explains:

Mural on Indian Red Ground was seized by the country's customs service on 11 May after being on loan to Japan.

The service said it confiscated the work over money owed by the Ministry of Culture, which runs the museum.

The ministry said the painting had been returned "after negotiations.”

Read the full story here.

05/29/2012 7:24 PM EDT

Dissident blogger in Iran.

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, a 26-year-old Iranian dissident blogger, has spent the past 13 months in solitary confinement at Iran’s Evin Prison, BBC Persian reports.

International Business Times reports that Maleki has written a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, including the following passage:

(Read the full translation here.)

“Leader of the Islamic Republic,

We must admit that judicial independence is not possible with the existence of so many intelligence and security entities.

We must admit that the society is facing a great explosion, and the current superficial peace is basically due to oppression, intimidation, imprisonments and suppression.

We must know that the thoughts of freedom seekers cannot be enchained! Ideologies cannot be tortured! Truth cannot be suppressed!”

Read the full story here.

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