The chief UN nuclear inspector has declared that there is still “a lot of work” to be done regarding Iran, as he returned from a visit to the country.
Herman Nackaerts said in Vienna on Wednesday that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team had had a “good” visit and was planning to return soon.
“We had three days of intensive discussions about all our priorities,” Nackaerts, one of six-person team to visit Iran, said in the Austrian capital.
“We are committed to resolving all the outstanding issues and the Iranians said they are committed too.
“But of course there is still a lot of work to be done, and so we have planned another trip in the very near future.”
The IAEA said in a statement that another meeting will take place in Tehran from February 21 to 22.
“The agency is committed to intensifying dialogue. It remains essential to make progress on substantive issues,” Yukiya Amano, the IAEA director-general, said.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister, told the Fars news agency on Wednesday that the IAEA talks were “good” and that it was agreed they would continue in the future.
“The delegation had some questions about the alleged studies [in the IAEA report], and thanks to God we had very good sessions,” he was quoted as saying.
“They did not visit any nuclear sites. We were ready to facilitate such visits if they had wanted to.“
– Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi
“They did not visit any nuclear sites. We were ready to facilitate such visits if they had wanted to.”
The inspectors’ visit was organised in the wake of a report published in November by the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which significantly raised suspicions that Iran had done work on developing nuclear weapons.
The report said the IAEA had a trove of evidence that “indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device”.
It detailed 12 suspicious actions such as testing explosives in a steel container at a military base and studies on Shahab-3 ballistic missile warheads that the IAEA said were “highly relevant to a nuclear weapon programme”.
Iran says that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and that the IAEA report was based on “forgeries” provided by its enemies.
The IAEA says, however, that Iran has a long history of being of breach of its obligations to declare nuclear facilities and materials and that the agency is unable to conclude all Tehran’s activities are peaceful.
The last full talks between Iran and the so-called P5 1 – the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – broke down a year ago in Turkey.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has insisted that his country is not dodging negotiations and is ready to sit down with world powers.
The major powers are, however, waiting for Iran to reply to a letter sent in October by the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, that stresses that discussions should focus on the “key question” of the Iranian nuclear issue.
The US, the EU and others have recently adopted sanctions to target Iran’s oil industry and central bank. Iran has in turn threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for global crude shipments.
UN agency’s stand
The IAEA said in January that Iran had begun enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity deep inside a mountain bunker at Fordow, taking it significantly closer to the 90 per cent mark needed for a nuclear bomb.
At the same time, though, it has vowed to keep up co-operation with the IAEA.
Amid growing calls in the US for a tougher stance against Iran, high-level US intelligence officials suggested on Tuesday that military conflict with Iran was not inevitable, despite the rising tensions.
And on Wednesday, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said in Israel that the stalemate over Iran’s suspect nuclear programme must be resolved peacefully.
At a news conference with Israel’s prime minister in Jerusalem, Ban urged the Iranians to prove their nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
When asked whether he fears an Israeli attack, he said “there is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of these issues”.