Iran Agreed to IAEA’s Goal Before Talks Stuck on Security

Iran’s discussions last month with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency broke up without agreement because of the Persian Gulf country’s concerns about a wave of assassinations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency circulated a March 2 Iranian letter today at its quarterly board meeting in Vienna. The five-page restricted document, printed on agency letterhead and obtained by Bloomberg News, contains notes from Iran’s Feb. 20-21 meeting with IAEA inspectors in Tehran.

The document details for the first time the precise points on which Iran and the IAEA inspection team failed to concur. According to the document, the inspectors and Iran agreed that both sides sought to clear up nuclear-weapons allegations by June. They remained divided over how to reach the goal.

“We have intensified our talks with Iran,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told journalists in Vienna. “I continue to hope that I can report something positive as an outcome from our endeavors and Iran’s endeavors to the June board of governors.”

The “document describes issues and topics to be addressed, and associated modalities,” according to the copy, which shows Iran’s objections and additions to the IAEA original. Both sides agreed that actions should “be undertaken before the June 2012 IAEA board of governors, if possible.”

Probe Limits

The IAEA inspectors visiting Tehran were bogged down by Iran’s security demands, according to the document. Tehran, which has blamed the IAEA for unintentionally facilitating nuclear-scientist assassinations through sloppy information security, wants inspectors to take steps to protect the country’s facilities and people.

For example, Iran wants inspectors to limit themselves to probing specific, pre-defined issues during any visit, according to the document. The letter shows Iran remained open to letting IAEA inspectors visit the Parchin military complex, where the agency says it has “credible” evidence showing engineers worked on high-explosives testing for a nuclear device.

Iranian IAEA Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh declined to comment today in Vienna.

Iran did offer inspectors access to another purported atomic facility in the western province of Marivan, where the IAEA reported in November that “large scale high-explosive experiments” linked to nuclear weapons were conducted. Amano said on Feb. 22 that inspectors were denied access to Iran’s Parchin military complex without mentioning the Marivan offer.

‘Parchin Was Priority’

“Parchin was the priority for us,” he said today. “We prepared for more than 40 days for verification and access to the Parchin site.

‘‘The alternative site was offered,’’ he said. ‘‘It was only a few hours before our departure that we learned that Iran had in mind Marivan. With that we couldn’t do a serious job.’’

The high-level IAEA team’s decision not to visit Marivan wasn’t surprising, according to Robert Kelley, a nuclear scientist and former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq.

‘‘IAEA was caught unprepared to visit a key nuclear weapons-development site at Marivan,” he said in an e-mailed reply to questions. “It is unlikely they had the tools like uranium sampling kits or preparatory activities such as detailed studies of satellite images that would guarantee mission success.”

Today’s IAEA gathering preceded talks between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders are meeting today in Washington, where they will show solidarity over how to confront Iran’s nuclear program as Obama asked Israel to help tone down “loose talk of war.”

Iran, which is entering the ninth year of the IAEA probe, insists that its nuclear program is peaceful. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Feb. 23 that possession of nuclear weapons is a “big crime.” The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran may be trying to build an atomic bomb.

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