In a move which could reduce the tensions in the Middle East, which have grown since the inspectors were forced to leave the country, a deal has been struct to allow the UN nuclear agency back into Iran.
Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) yesterday revealed that the outline of an agreement with Iran had been concluded at talks held in Tehran.
The news came a day before Iran and six world powers meet in the Iraqi capital, Baghad, for negotiations and will be seen as a significant turning point in the heated dispute over Tehran’s nuclear intentions.
The six nations, including the UK and the US, hope the talks will result in an agreement from Iran to stop enriching uranium to a higher level that could be turned quickly into the fissile core of nuclear arms.
Iran denies it is embarked on a nuclear arms programe and claims its reactors are only for power and medical applications, an explanation which other nations, including Israel, dispute.
Speaking in Vienna after returning from Tehran, where he had held talks with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Mr Amano said that a few details of the agreement needed to be resolved, but these would not block progress.
Iranian negotiators in Baghdad are likely to claim that the onus is now on the other side to show some flexibility and temper its demands.
Although Mr Amano’s trip and the talks in Baghdad are formally separate, Iran hopes progress with the IAEA can boost its chances of pressing the US and Europe to roll back sanctions that have hit Iran’s critical oil exports and blacklisted the country from international banking networks.
After talks in Tehran, “the decision was made… to reach agreement” on the mechanics of giving the IAEA access to sites, scientists and documents it seeks to restart its probe”, Mr Amano told reporters at Vienna airport.
Mr Amano said differences existed on “some details”, but Mr Jalili had assured him that these “will not be an obstacle to reach agreement”.
He spoke of “an almost clean text” that will be signed soon, although he could not say when. A deal with Iran should help the discussions that Mr Jalili will hold with the members of the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany – in Baghdad today.
The IAEA is asking Iran to allow it access to a military complex at Parchin, 18 miles south-west of Tehran, where it may have conducted high-explosive tests of components for an atomic weapon.
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle urged Iran to put good intentions into action.
“Enduring and substantial cooperation by Iran … to clear up the open questions surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme would be an important, and at the same time overdue, step in the right direction,” he said in a statement.