UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief in Talks with Iranian Officials

Posted May 21st, 2012 at 8:25 am (UTC-5)
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The head of the U.N. nuclear agency is holding talks in Tehran with senior Iranian officials to try to reach an agreement on inspecting Iranian facilities suspected of being used for a covert nuclear weapons program.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukio Amano met the head of Iran's nuclear energy organization Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani on Monday, shortly after arriving in the Iranian capital for a one-day visit. Amano was due to meet the top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi later in the day.

It is Amano's first trip to Iran since taking office at the U.N. nuclear agency in 2009. Before leaving Vienna, he said he hoped to build on “good progress” made by lower-level IAEA and Iranian officials in the Austrian capital last week. But Amano also said “nothing is certain” about the prospects for an agreement on nuclear inspections.

Iran has rejected repeated IAEA requests to inspect its Parchin military complex in response to Western allegations of atomic weapons research at the site. Tehran says the complex houses only conventional weapons and insists the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful.

Some diplomats say Iran may offer concessions to Amano to strengthen its negotiating position in separate nuclear talks with six world powers in Baghdad on Wednesday. The world powers include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany – a group that has been trying to assess the possible military capability of Iran's nuclear sites.

Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence and refuses to rule out military action against the Iranian nuclear program.

During a visit to Prague Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed concern about the Baghdad talks, saying Iran may use them to buy time to advance its weapons ambitions.

The United States also has refused to rule out a strike on Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.