U.N. agency sees deal soon to check Iran nuclear work

Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:07pm EST
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - The United Nations nuclear agency expects to reach a deal with Iran next month enabling it to investigate whether the Islamic state has carried out atomic bomb research, the chief U.N. inspector said after returning from Tehran on Friday.

Even though the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed to gain requested access to the Parchin military complex during Thursday's visit to the Iranian capital, 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.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department sounded a cautious note, saying Iran had repeatedly raised obstacles to real progress.

"While we do commend the IAEA for its efforts, we're disappointed that Iran did not grant access to the Parchin site which Iran has been sanitizing in advance of re-engaging with the IAEA," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"We understand there's going to be a meeting in January between the two sides and we hope that Iran starts the immediate, substantive cooperation that is long overdue."

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.   Continued...

Herman Nackaerts (C), head of a delegation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reacts at the airport in Vienna after arriving with his team from Iran December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer