UN Nuclear Watchdog Says ‘Major Differences’ With Iran

Posted February 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations nuclear watchdog says it has “major differences” and “major concerns” with Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

The comments Friday came after U.N. inspectors said that a visit this week to Tehran, aimed at gaining greater access to key nuclear sites and scientists, ended in failure.

“An intensive discussion was held on the structured approach to the clarification of all outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear program,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“No agreement was reached between Iran and the agency, as major differences existed with respect to this approach,” the report said. “The agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.”

Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program, a charge Tehran denies.

Earlier Friday, Iran's envoy to the IAEA said Tehran wants continuing dialogue and warned against “provocation.”

“Our position is that we are going to continue the talks for cooperation with the agency and we hope that this process will be successfully going on,” Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said.

Russia and China, as well as many Western nations, are concerned that any military action against Iran could engulf the Middle East in wider war, which would send oil prices soaring at a time of global economic troubles.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday that he has fears that some nations are using the Iran nuclear controversy as a pretext to “change the regime.”

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said this week that Iran rejected a request to inspect the Parchin military complex near Tehran, suspected of housing a secret underground nuclear facility.

Amano said Tehran refused to allow his team to interview scientists or engage in substantive talks about Iran's nuclear course.

In a defiant response after the U.N. team left, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran's atomic work will continue despite “pressures, sanctions and assassinations,” and that the country is not seeking nuclear weapons.

Chief inspector Herman Nackaerts called this week's talks “disappointing.” He said the IAEA had gone into its latest visit – and a previous, inconclusive one last month – “in a constructive spirit,” but that “we could not finalize a way forward.”

He said the IAEA's next steps will be determined after his team reports to the agency's chief and its board of governors, which is scheduled to meet early next month.

Israel and the United States have not ruled out the use of force to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Tehran has threatened to take its own preemptive military action if it believes its national security interests are being threatened.