AFP – The UN nuclear chief Friday said he was not hopeful of much progress in obtaining access to facilities the West believes Iran is using as part of an atomic weapons programme.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said “the outlook is uncertain, as to whether we can reach an agreement on January 16”, when his officers meet with their Iranian counterparts.
The comment came a few days after Iran said it would not agree to any inspections beyond those of declared nuclear sites required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
For the past year, the IAEA has been trying to reach agreement with Iran on a “structured approach” that would permit inspectors to conduct spot checks on sites not covered by the treaty.
Foremost among those is the Parchin military complex outside Tehran, a non-nuclear site where the IAEA suspects Iran may have conducted past tests of conventional explosives that could be used to detonate an atomic bomb.
Iran denies seeking or ever having sought nuclear weapons, and rejected the alleged evidence outright in a series of meetings with the IAEA last year.
“Negotiations with Iran are very difficult,” Amano told a press conference in Tokyo. “Will we take a linear path toward an agreement? I am not necessarily optimistic. The outlook is not necessarily bright.”
After a visit to Tehran last month, IAEA chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said he was confident an agreement could be finalised at next Wednesday’s talks and that access to Parchin would be “part of” it.
However, Amano noted, that despite “measured progress” in the December talks, the two parties fell short an agreement. “The IAEA hopes to resolve Iran’s nuclear problem through dialogue, through diplomatic means,” Amano said. “However, we cannot say anything about the outlook for certain, if you ask me whether we are optimistic about it.”
Much of the information on the alleged weapons research comes from foreign intelligence agencies, including from arch foe Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, which has threatened to bomb Iran.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast had hinted that access might be granted to Parchin, but only once a “comprehensive agreement” with the watchdog has been reached.