Middle East

Iran meets with UN watchdog, but reportedly stays quiet over access to suspected nuclear weapons site

Iran says that talks with a U.N. watchdog agency over its nuclear program brought progress, but kept quiet on whether or not it would allow envoys to tour a suspected weapons site, Reuters reports.

Envoys from the International Atomic Energy Agency met with Iran Thursday and the two sides will meet again in Tehran in January, according to local reports. 

The mission by the seven-member International Atomic Energy Agency team, headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, underscored the stalemate atmosphere over Tehran's nuclear program.

Talks with the United States and other nations have been in limbo since June, and IAEA inspectors are still pressing to revisit the Parchin military site near Tehran, months after Iran hinted it would give permission for the second visit. Tehran later backtracked and put caveats on the visit.

The West suspects Iran wants to expand its uranium enrichment activities to eventually produce warhead-grade material. Iran says it only seeks reactors for energy generation and cancer treatment, not nuclear weapons.

The IAEA has demanded since last year to make another inspection visit to the Parchin military site, which the agency says could have been used for experiments related to nuclear weapons in the interim. Iran insists the site is a conventional military base.

Before flying to Tehran, Nackaerts signaled impatience with Iran's refusal to meet IAEA requests for information on its suspicion that Iran had researched and developed components of a nuclear weapons program. In brief comments to reporters at the Vienna airport, he noted that "negotiations for almost one year" have already been conducted on the issue.

The IAEA suspects that Iran has conducted live tests of conventional explosives in Parchin that could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon and cites satellite photos indicating a cleanup of the site. Iran denies it is sanitizing the site, but IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has warned that his agency's chances of a meaningful investigation at Parchin are diminishing the longer the alleged cleanup continues.

Mojtaba Fathi, a political analyst who writes for the pro-reform Bahar daily in Tehran, said Iran may demand that any information from Parchin be kept confidential by the inspectors as a precondition for a possible visit.

Iran in the past accused the agency's inspectors of leaking nuclear information to countries such as Israel and the United States before it appears in official reports.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a professor in politics in Tehran's Allameh University, believed the talks could be an "opening" for the future.

"If the talks are fruitful, a common language can be found for solving other differences" between Iran and the West, said Falahatpisheh.

Iran's nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi said his country will approach the talks in an "optimistic" way.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.