U.N. agency expects deal soon on Iran nuclear probe

Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:04pm EST
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear agency expects to reach a deal with Iran next month enabling it to resume a stalled probe into suspected nuclear weapon research in the Islamic state, the chief U.N. inspector said after returning from Tehran on Friday.

Even though the International Atomic Energy Agency failed to gain access to the Parchin military complex during Thursday's visit to the Iranian capital as requested, IAEA delegation head Herman Nackaerts said progress had been made.

"We had good meetings," Nackaerts, deputy director general of the U.N. watchdog, told reporters at Vienna airport.

World powers seeking to resolve a decade-old dispute over Iran's atomic activity and avert the threat of a new Middle East war closely watched the IAEA-Iran talks for any indication of Iranian readiness to finally start addressing their concerns.

U.S. ally Israel - believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal - has threatened military action if diplomacy and economic sanctions intended to halt Iran's uranium enrichment work do not resolve the standoff.

The IAEA and Iran, which denies Western allegations it is seeking to develop a capability to assemble nuclear weapons, will meet again on January 16, Nackaerts said.

"We expect to finalize the structured approach and start implementing it then shortly after that," he said, referring to a framework agreement on how to address the IAEA's suspicions about possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.

Nackaerts did not give details on what had been achieved, but one stumbling block in previous, mostly fruitless meetings was Iran's request for access to intelligence documents at the basis of the U.N. agency's mounting concerns.   Continued...

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano reacts as he attends a news conference during a board of governors meeting at the UN headquarters in Vienna November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer