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IAEA Talks to Be Stepped Up
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IAEA Talks to Be Stepped Up

Talks between Iran and the UN nuclear agency have yielded "no significant progress" in recent months, although the two sides agreed to step up senior-level dialogue, the agency's head said this weekend.  

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference annual meeting.

Iran has been in talks with the IAEA for years on past work the West claims Iran may have carried out as part of an effort to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons. Iran promised to step up cooperation with the agency in November 2013, at the same time as the country intensified a separate set of talks with six world powers aimed at ending a long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear work.

The IAEA says after some initial progress, Iran has offered little new information to the agency since May, a claim Iran denies, insisting that it has done its utmost to ease concerns over its nuclear activities through answering the IAEA's questions and allowing the UN agency broader access to its  nuclear sites.  

"There has not been significant progress," Mr. Amano told The Wall Street Journal after the meeting with Zarif. "Much more needs to be done" to clarify outstanding issues.

Asked if Mr. Zarif promised to step up the pace of cooperation, Mr. Amano said that was not yet clear.

"He listened to me and he agreed to further intensify the dialogue," he said. "He didn't say no."

The IAEA produces quarterly reports on its negotiations with Iran and the next one is due to be sent out to member states over the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Amano said Mr. Zarif did agree that senior Iranian and IAEA officials should "interact more intensively and more frequently."

***Top-Level Meeting in Weeks  

He said there should be another top-level meeting between the two sides in the coming weeks, although no date is yet set.

In a November 2011 report, the IAEA raised 12 areas of concern about Iran's past nuclear work. Much of the report focused on work that Tehran allegedly did more than a decade ago.

Iran provided information about one of those issues concerning its work on Exploding Bridge Wire (EBW) detonators and in May it promised to answer the agency's questions within months on two further areas. Iran says it has started addressing the two remaining issues.  

Mr. Amano said there had still been no real progress on those two issues and that Tehran has still not picked new areas it will discuss in future .Officials at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran say new nuclear transparency measures will be proposed after the resolution of the two issues which are about alleged high explosives tests and alleged studies that could be relevant for any effort to develop nuclear weapons.
     
Iran denies any military objectives in its nuclear program, saying the work is solely for peaceful purposes, including power generation.

The United States and some other western countries have previously said Iran should answer some of the key questions about its past work if it wants to convince the major powers its current nuclear activities are purely peaceful. However, while western officials once demanded progress in talks with the IAEA before concluding a final nuclear deal, that precondition seems to have faded.

Mr. Amano said that for Iran, failing to address the issues thrown up by its past work "is not an option."

***Amano Senses Political Will

The IAEA chief said he still sensed political determination to strike a deal on the broader nuclear talks between Iran and the six powers. The IAEA is not directly involved in those talks, in which Tehran negotiates with the US, Britain., Russia, China, Germany and France.

"Now, we sense there is a political will. They have covered various issues and they have disagreement in some areas as I understand it," he said. "So all the elements are there."

Iran and the six powers have set a late March deadline to complete the framework of a final deal. They have placed a new June 30 deadline for sealing a detailed final nuclear accord. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Sunday opposed a "two-stage" agreement and called for a clear and transparent agreement on general terms and details in a single stage which would leave no place for interpretation.   

An agreement would see the phasing out of sanctions on Tehran in exchange for constraints on Iran's nuclear activities for a specified period of time.

 

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