Iran Nuclear Talks With IAEA to Begin Amid Low Expectations

International Atomic Energy Agency officials travel to Iran today for talks about the possible military dimensions of the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program.

The IAEA’s team of seven officials, led by Chief Inspector Herman Nackaerts, wants to gain access to more people and places in Iran. They left Vienna this afternoon with atomic-detection equipment needed to test sites at Iran’s Parchin military complex.

“This trip is to reach agreement on a structured approach to resolve the outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program,” Nackaerts said in Vienna. “We also hope that Iran will allow us to go to the site at Parchin. If Iran would grant us access we would welcome that chance and we are ready to go.”

It will be the first meeting between both sides since talks broke down in August. Trust between the agency and Iran has subsequently deteriorated. Iran’s nuclear chief accused the IAEA of spying on behalf of Western powers in September. Senior international officials said those charges created an atmosphere of intimidation for atomic inspectors working in Iran.

“I have my doubts about the sincerity of Iran,” said U.S. IAEA envoy Robert Woods on Nov. 29 at a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors in Vienna. “Iran has done nothing other than stonewall.”

Parchin Complex

The top goal for the IAEA delegation visiting Iran will be to win access to Parchin, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Tehran. The IAEA says it was provided with intelligence information showing Iran may have constructed a blast chamber for testing nuclear-weapons components at the site.

Iran, the No. 3 oil producer among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has repeatedly denied it ever sought to make a nuclear weapon and has said that the IAEA’s evidence is fake. Satellite photos show Iran has made changes to the topography around the suspected site at Parchin.

Iran wants the main topic of tomorrow’s round of talks to be the IAEA’s “alleged findings,” Iran’s state-run Fars news agency reported today, citing Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. The IAEA said Nov. 9 that its main goal for the visit is to win broader access to people and places in Iran suspected of performing and housing atomic work.

“There is now an opportunity to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic means,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said Dec. 7 in a speech in Washington. “The IAEA remains firmly committed to dialogue. Now is the time for all of us to work with a sense of urgency and seize on the opportunity for a diplomatic solution.”

Inspectors may extend their single day of talks in Tehran if negotiations go well, according to the Tehran’s Kayhan newspaper, a publication controlled by the office of Iran’s supreme leader.

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