ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog held talks in Tehran on Monday, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported, ahead of a March deadline for a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program between Tehran and six major powers.
“We had serious technical discussions and exchanged views on two remaining issues and agreed to hold another meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by April 20,” ISNA quoted Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA.
“We agreed to continue our cooperation and reviewed ways to accelerate this cooperation.”
The IAEA says Iran has still not addressed two issues that are part of the agency’s inquiry into the possible military dimensions of the country’s nuclear program: alleged experiments on explosives that could be used for an atomic device, and neutron calculations.
Iran has promised to work with the IAEA as part of its efforts to end the country’s decade-long nuclear standoff with the West.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet on March 15 in Switzerland, an Iranian official told Reuters.
“Then there will be bilateral and trilateral meetings with other members of the P5+1 countries ... followed by meetings between the seven countries,” said the official, adding Lausanne was the likely venue.
Iran, the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain are trying to seal an understanding by the end of March before a final deal in June.
The negotiations are aimed at persuading Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief of sanctions that have badly damaged its economy.
Iran denies any intention to seek atomic weapons, saying its nuclear energy program is solely for peaceful purposes.
“The imposed sanctions on Iran are cruel and illegal ... lifting all the sanctions is the only way to reach a nuclear deal,” said Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The ministers of the four Western countries in talks with Iran - Britain, France, Germany and United States - met on Saturday in Paris to align their positions ahead of the March 15 talks. Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said more needed to be done to strengthen a possible accord.
“What we are saying is that the Iranians still have work to do. The ball is in their camp ” a Western diplomat close to the talks told Reuters on Monday.
Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Catherine Evans and Tom Heneghan