IAEA talks in Tehran to test Iran's nuclear defiance
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA (Reuters) - A rare visit by senior U.N. nuclear inspectors next week raises pressure on Iran to address suspicions it is trying to develop atomic weapons, though Western powers that are piling on sanctions expect no significant breakthrough.
How Tehran deals with the International Atomic Energy Agency may offer pointers to prospects for resolving a long-running dispute that an oil embargo and threats of war, along with talk of Iran closing in on nuclear weapons capability and the U.S. presidential election calendar, have escalated to crisis level.
The outcome of the inspectors' meetings from Sunday to Tuesday will be closely watched in Washington, European capitals and Israel for signs of whether Iran's leadership may finally be prepared to give ground after a decade of pursuing its nuclear development goals or whether it remains as defiant as ever.
"I hope that, at a minimum, the parties can agree on how to proceed in resolving outstanding issues, and that also includes the military dimension of Iran's nuclear program," said Olli Heinonen, a former chief U.N. safeguards inspector.
Western diplomats, who have often accused Tehran of using offers of meetings as a stalling tactic while pressing ahead with its nuclear program, say they doubt that it will lead to the kind of concrete progress the U.N. agency is looking for.
But some speculate that Iranian officials could show more openness or make limited concessions in the discussions in Tehran with senior IAEA delegates in a bid to keep channels of dialogue open and avert even more punitive steps.
"We are skeptical that anything substantive is going to come out of the meeting," one Vienna-based diplomat said.
But, "it would be a smart move on their part to do something, to provide some sort of...cooperation." Continued...