The U.N. atomic agency hopes to persuade Iran to finally start
addressing long-held suspicions that it may have researched how to
build atomic bombs.
Tehran has rejected the accusations of weaponization-related work as
baseless and said it will cooperate with the IAEA to clear up any
Iran was represented in the discussions by Reza Najafi, its envoy to
the IAEA, while the team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog was led by
deputy IAEA director general Tero Varjoranta, IRNA said.
Saturday's meeting comes 10 days before Tehran and world powers,
building on a landmark interim deal that took effect last month,
start talks on a long-term accord on Iran's nuclear aspirations that
would avert the threat of a Middle East war.
The spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Behrouz
Kamalvandi, was reported on Friday as saying that Iran's aim was "to
answer the IAEA's questions" at the talks.
Diplomats are cautiously optimistic that after Saturday's talks in
Tehran the team of senior IAEA inspectors will be able to show at
least some progress in gaining Iran's cooperation.
Iran-IAEA ties have improved since last year's election of a
relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as president of Iran on a
platform to ease the country's international isolation.
agreement signed in November, the IAEA has already visited a heavy
water production plant and a uranium mine in Iran. However, those
first steps did not go to the heart of its investigation and Western
diplomats will watch Saturday's meeting closely to see whether the
next phase achieves that.
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The IAEA wants Iran to clarify its activities in a range of areas of
potential application to developing bombs, including various
experiments and computer calculations.
Western diplomats hope an accord will lead to Iran scaling back its
nuclear program sufficiently to deny it the capability to assemble a
nuclear weapon anytime soon.
The IAEA's investigation is focused on the question of whether Iran
sought atomic bomb technology in the past and, if it did, to
determine whether such work has since stopped.
Although separate, the IAEA's inquiry is still closely aligned with
the wider-ranging diplomacy between Tehran and the six powers — the
United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and that it is Israel's
assumed atomic arsenal that threatens peace.
(Reporting by Mehrdad Balali and Parisa Hefazi;
editing by William Maclean and Sonya Hepinstall)
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