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IAEA Chief Hopes Tehran Meeting Will Aid Diplomatic Efforts

November 29, 2012
by Charles Recknagel

VIENNA -- The UN's nuclear watchdog agency says it hopes a meeting in Tehran next month with Iranian officials will strengthen diplomatic efforts to end the nuclear crisis.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in Vienna on November 28 that his deputies will meet with Iranian nuclear officials in Tehran on December 13.

Amano added that "the IAEA remains firmly committed to dialogue. There is an opportunity to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue diplomatically. Now is the time for all of us to work with a sense of urgency and to seize the opportunity for a diplomatic solution."

Amano earlier said he was "unable to report any progress" on getting Iran to cooperate on answering questions about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program.

"The agency has continued its intensive efforts to resolve all of the outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear program," he said. "However, no concrete results have been achieved."

Amano also said international sanctions against Iran were having no visible impact on its nuclear program.

Amano said the IAEA delegation would try to reach an agreement in Tehran over a structured approach to Iran answering all outstanding questions about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program.

He also said the IAEA would use the meeting to again request access for inspectors to Iran's Parchin site, where the agency believes Iran may be removing evidence of past nuclear work.

"Despite repeated requests, Iran has still not granted to the agency access to the Parchin site. Satellite imagery shows extensive activities at the Parchin site, including the removal and replacement of considerable quantities of earth," Amano said.

"This could make it much more difficult for us to undertake effective verification. Nevertheless, it is important that agency inspectors should have access to the site."

The IAEA believes Iran carried out tests a decade ago at Parchin relevant to the development of an explosive device. However, Tehran has refused to let inspectors visit areas of the military and research facility where the agency suspects the tests took place.

Iran backed away from a tentative deal reached by Amano in Tehran earlier this year to permit expanded international inspections of its nuclear facilities. Since then, the IAEA has expressed continued frustration with the lack of cooperation from Iran.

But Amano said the window for a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear crisis remained open because all sides still sought a peaceful resolution to it.

Adding Enrichment Capability

The two-day board of governors gathering in Vienna, which ends on November 30, comes after the IAEA reported earlier this month that Iran could soon start operating many more centrifuges at its underground Fordow facility.

The IAEA reported in its latest quarterly report on November 16 that Iran was poised to double the number of centrifuges in operation at Fordow to 1,400 compared to 700 previously.

The Fordow facility enriches uranium to the 20 percent enrichment level, a short hop technically from the higher levels of enrichment needed to produce nuclear weapons material.

Western countries worry that increasing the number of operational machines at the bunker-like facility brings Iran closer to having a breakout capability for producing atomic bombs. However, experts believe Iran still remains years away from having a workable nuclear arsenal.

Tehran denies any allegations it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, saying its program is entirely for peaceful purposes.

The 35-nation governing board of the IAEA rebuked Iran at its last meeting in Vienna in September by expressing "serious concern" about Iran's continued enrichment of uranium despite UN Security Council calls for it to suspend its controversial nuclear activities.


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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