VIENNA: The head of the United Nations (UN) atomic watchdog holds talks in Tehran on Monday after Iran and world powers failed to cut even an initial nuclear deal over three gruelling days in Geneva.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said before leaving Sunday that his negotiations were “independent” to those of Iran with six world powers, known as the P5+1.
But after Iran and the six powers dramatically fell short in Switzerland, a deal with the IAEA could help repair damaged hopes for progress ahead of the next P5+1 round on November 20.
“The only reason he [Amano] would go would be if he’s confident that they were going to agree on something,” said one Western diplomat in Vienna, predicting an initial accord with “confidence-building measures.”
Talking to a scrum of reporters before he took off from Vienna airport on Sunday, the Japanese Amano said that Iran and the UN body had reached a “very important point.”
“Iran presented a new proposal [to the IAEA]last month that includes practical measures to strengthen cooperation and dialogue, and we hope to build on it,” Amano said.
Mindful of his last Tehran trip in May 2012 when he failed to clinch an accord, Amano though stopped short of echoing Iran’s IAEA envoy in predicting a breakthrough.
The IAEA conducts regular inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but it also wants Tehran to answer allegations that it was trying before 2003, and maybe since, to develop a nuclear weapon.
Iran denies seeking or ever having sought nuclear weapons, and says the IAEA’s claims are based on faulty intelligence from the likes of the Central Intelligence Agency and Israel’s Mossad.
For two years and in numerous meetings, Tehran has resisted IAEA requests to visit sites where these alleged activities took place as well as to consult documents and speak to certain Iranian scientists.
The sites include the Parchin military base where the IAEA wants to probe claims that scientists conducted explosives tests that it says would be “strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development.”
But the election this year of the more moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president has created fresh hope and momentum, as it has with Iran’s separate but related talks with world powers.
Those discussions with the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany are focused more on Tehran’s current activities, in particular uranium enrichment, with Iran seeking sanctions relief.
The two diplomatic “tracks” are closely related, however, since world powers want Iran to answer the IAEA’s questions in order to ease fears that Tehran wants the bomb.
The six countries—all of which except Germany have nuclear weapons—also want Tehran to submit to more intrusive inspections by the watchdog as part of a wider accord.
The IAEA would also be closely involved in monitoring any freeze in enrichment and in Iran sending its stockpiles of nuclear material to a third country.