U.S. Stresses Need for Iranian Action to Sustain ‘Hopeful’ Talks

Iran needs to open its nuclear program to wider checks to maintain negotiating momentum aimed at defusing international tension over the possible military dimensions of its atomic work, the U.S. said.

World powers see “the hopeful nature of continued diplomacy” with Iran, Joseph MacManus, U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters in Vienna today. “The time and place for a diplomatic solution is here and now. There is no cause for a further delay.”

The IAEA’s 35-member board of governors convened its quarterly meeting today to review the decade-long investigation into Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA reported last month that while it hasn’t detected anything awry with Iran’s declared nuclear work, inspectors don’t have enough access to people, places and documents to rule out illicit activities.

Iran, with the world’s fourth-biggest proven oil reserves, maintains its nuclear work is peaceful. Iranian officials met last month with the so-called P5+1 group -- comprised of China, Germany, France, Russia, the U.K. and U.S. -- to find a diplomatic way out of the confrontation. Israel and the U.S. haven’t ruled out military strikes to stop the program.

“The time is well past that Iran already should have taken substantive steps to address all outstanding issues, and further delay is not acceptable,” MacManus said. The IAEA’s board may need to “hold Iran accountable” for not taking action, he said.

Parchin Base

IAEA investigators want access to sites including the Parchin military base, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Tehran. Inspectors’ inability to share information with Iran that it received from unidentified intelligence agencies has hampered the investigation. Iran’s insistence that it be able to review the documents has received support from the so-called Non-Aligned Movement bloc of developing countries.

The group, representing more than 120 nations, is asking that the IAEA “provides all related documents to Iran,” the bloc said in a statement read late yesterday by Iran’s IAEA envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh. The IAEA has called the intelligence information “credible.”

P5+1 negotiations will be “pursued actively in the months ahead on the basis of reciprocity and a step-by-step approach,” the group said late yesterday in a statement issued at the IAEA. The P5+1 is “deeply concerned” by Iran’s January decision to upgrade uranium production technology at its plant in Natanz.

“The second Almaty negotiations will no doubt be brighter and more promising than the previous talks,” Fereydoun Abbasi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted as saying today in Tehran by the Fars news agency. Iran is due to meet the P5+1 group April 5 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

“Diplomacy has not worked,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on March 4 via satellite to a pro-Israel U.S. lobbying group meeting in Washington. Iran is “running out the clock,” he said. “It has used negotiations, including the most recent ones, in order to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program.”