Questions remain: Iran blocks nuclear experts from key site

The UN nuclear watchdog agency left after two days of talks failed despite 'intensive efforts.' It will report on Iran's program in days.

Herwig Prammer/Reuters
Herman Nackaerts, head of a delegation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaks to media at the airport in Vienna after arrival from Iran on Jan. 22. The UN nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday it had failed to secure an agreement with Iran during two days of talks with UN experts in Tehran about possible weapons efforts.

Key questions about Iran's nuclear program remain unresolved despite two days of talks with UN experts in Tehran about possible weapons efforts.

Requests by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit a military base at Parchin were denied, and the team failed to agree on framework to resolve questions about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons-related work.

"It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings," IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said. "We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached."

As rhetoric has soared about possible Israeli or American military strikes against Iran – and biting sanctions have targeted Iran's oil exports and central bank – the IAEA issued an uncharacteristically blunt statement, presaging the likely tone of its next quarterly report on Iran, which is due within days.

That report could determine if nuclear talks will be renewed after a year-long lull, amid rising pressure on Iran and a covert war to undermine its nuclear progress that has included assassinations of nuclear scientists, unexplained explosions, and the Stuxnet computer virus that Iran blame on the US and Israel.

"Intensive efforts were made to reach agreement on a document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran's nuclear program," a brief IAEA statement read. "Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document."

Iran has refused for years to address IAEA charges of past weapons work, which were detailed for the first time in the agency's November report, calling them "fabrications" created by hostile intelligence agencies.

But recently, Iran indicated for the first time that "questions will be answered," and an IAEA visit within the past month appeared to hold a promise of progress. But the IAEA stated otherwise late on Tuesday, and the military base at Parchin remained off limits. The IAEA last November reported its suspicions that the site was used for high-explosives testing that could have a nuclear weapons application.

Mr. Amano's spokeswoman Gill Tudor told Reuters today that no further meetings were planned: "At this point in time there is no agreement on further discussions."

Iran has long declared that its nuclear programs aim only to peacefully create nuclear power. State-run PressTV today issued a "breaking news" report from Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, headlined: "Leader says Iran does not seek to build atomic weapons."

The bulletin paraphrased Ayatollah Khamenei as "stating that the Islamic Republic intends to put an end to the supremacy of the world powers which relies on nukes."

Both Iran and the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) have expressed an interest in renewing nuclear talks. But the results of the IAEA visit indicate a lack of common ground.

The IAEA visit came to an end as the deputy head of Iran's armed forces said Iran would consider preemptive action if it judged its national interests were being endangered.

"Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran's national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions," Fars News Agency reported Mohammad Hejazi saying.

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