VIENNA (AP) — Despite some remaining differences, a deal has been reached with Iran that will allow the U.N. nuclear agency to restart a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Tehran has secretly worked on developing nuclear arms, the U.N. nuclear chief said Tuesday.
The news from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, who returned from Tehran on Tuesday, comes just a day before Iran and six world powers meet in Baghdad for negotiations and could present a significant turning point in the heated dispute over Iran’s nuclear intentions. The six nations hope the talks will result in an agreement by the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium to a higher level that could be turned quickly into the fissile core of nuclear arms.
Iran denies it seeks nuclear arms and says its reactors are only for power and medical applications.
By compromising on the IAEA probe, Iranian negotiators in Baghdad could argue that the onus was now on the other side to show some flexibility and temper its demands. Although Amano’s trip and the talks in Baghdad are formally separate, Iran hopes progress with the IAEA can boost its chances Wednesday in pressing the U.S. and Europe to roll back sanctions that have hit Iran’s critical oil exports and blacklisted the country from international banking networks.
It was unclear, though, how far the results achieved by Amano would serve that purpose, with him returning without the two sides signing the deal, despite his upbeat comments.
After talks in Tehran between Amano and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, “the decision was made… to reach agreement” on the mechanics of giving the IAEA access to sites, scientists and documents it seeks to restart its probe,” Amano told reporters at Vienna airport after his one-day trip to Tehran.
Amano said differences existed on “some details,” without elaborating but added that Jalili had assured him that these “will not be an obstacle to reach agreement.” He spoke of “an almost clean text” that will be signed soon, although he could not say when.
Western diplomats are skeptical of Iran’s willingness to open past and present activities to full perusal, believing it would only reveal what they suspect and Tehran denies — that the Islamic Republic has researched and developed components of a nuclear weapons program. They say that Tehran’s readiness to honor any agreement it has signed is the true test of its willingness to cooperate
The United States is among those skeptics. In a statement released soon after Amano’s announcement, Robert A. Wood, America’s chief delegate to the nuclear agency, said Washington appreciated Amano’s efforts but remained “concerned by the urgent obligation for Iran to take concrete steps to cooperate fully with the verification efforts of the IAEA, based on IAEA verification practices.”
” We urge Iran to take this opportunity to resolve all outstanding concerns about the nature of its nuclear program,” said the statement. “Full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA is the first logical step.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also urged Iran to put professed good intentions into action.
“Enduring and substantial cooperation by Iran with the International Atomic Energy Agency to clear up the open questions surrounding the Iranian nuclear program would be an important and at the same time overdue step in the right direction,” he said in a statement.
On the Baghdad talks, “the aim is to make progress not just atmospherically but also on substance,” he said, reflecting Western views that the feel-good effect achieved at a previous round in Istanbul last month must now be built upon with concrete steps aimed at reducing international concerns over Tehran’s nuclear agenda.
For the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — a main concern is Iran’s production of uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is far higher than needed for regular energy-producing reactors but used for one Iran says it needs for medical research. The U.S. and its allies fear the higher-enriched uranium could be quickly boosted to warhead-grade material.
U.S. officials have said Washington will not backpedal from its stance that Iran must fully halt uranium enrichment. But speculation is increasing that the priorities have shifted to block the 20 percent enrichment and perhaps allow Iran to maintain lower-level nuclear fuel production — at least for now.
Iranian officials could package such a scenario as a victory for their domestic audience. In Israel, it would likely be greeted with dismay and widen rifts between President Barack Obama’s U.S. administration and Israeli officials who keep open the threat of military action against Iran’s nuclear sites.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned against concessions, saying world powers should make “clear and unequivocal demands” that Iran stop all of its nuclear enrichment activity.
“Iran wants to destroy Israel and it is developing nuclear weapons to fulfill that goal,” Netanyahu said at a conference in Jerusalem. “Against this malicious intention, leading world powers need to display determination and not weakness. They should not make any concessions to Iran.”
Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator who met with Amano and will also be the lead envoy at the Baghdad talks, said his country hopes for a new beginning when the talks start on Wednesday.
“We hope that the talks in Baghdad will be a kind of dialogue that will give shape to … cooperation,” Jalili said after arriving in Baghdad late Monday.
As part of any agreement, Amano and his agency are focused on getting Iran to let agency experts to probe various high-profile Iranian sites, including the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran, where the agency believes Iran in 2003 ran explosive tests needed to set off a nuclear charge. The suspected blasts took place inside a pressure chamber.
Iran has never said whether the chamber existed, but describes Parchin as a conventional military site. Iran, however, has blocked IAEA requests for access to sites, scientists and documents needed for its investigation for more than four years.
Amano’s talks included Jalili as well as Iran’s foreign minister and other officials including the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Fereidoun Abbasi.
Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahtpisheh told The Associated Press on Monday that Tehran will likely accept more inspections of Parchin “if it feels there is good will within the (IAEA).”
But Falahtpisheh warned that this new openness will likely come with expectations that the West would in return ease international sanctions on Iran.
“In opening up to more inspections, Iran aims at lowering the crisis over its nuclear case,” he said. “But if the sanctions continue, Iran would stop this.”
A political analyst in Tehran, Hamid Reza Shokouhi, said Iran is carefully watching to see if the West shows more “flexibility and pays attention to Iranian demands” during Amano’s trip.
“Then Iran will show flexibility, too,” Shokouhi said.
But some Iranian media was critical of Amano and the IAEA, possibly reflecting internal divisions on how far to go compromise on nuclear issues.
In a sign of ebbing market worries, oil prices have steadily fallen since Iran and world powers resumed talks in April in Istanbul. Fears of supply disruptions because of military conflict or Iranian shipping blockades helped drive prices above $106 a barrel earlier this year. Oil rose to slightly above $92 per barrel Monday in New York.
Ali Akbar Dareini in Baghdad, Brian Murphy in Dubai, Ian Deitch in Jerusalem, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11