UN nuclear chief in Iran for talks


THE UN’S nuclear supervisor flew to Tehran yesterday voicing optimism he could reach a deal to investigate suspected atom bomb research – a possible breakthrough that Iran may hope could help ease western sanctions pressure and deflect threats of war.

“I really think this is the right time to reach agreement. Nothing is certain but I stay positive,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at Vienna airport, adding “good progress” had already been made.

But though Mr Amano scheduled today’s talks with Iran at such short notice that diplomats said agreement on inspections seemed near, few see Tehran convincing western governments to ease back swiftly on punitive measures when its negotiators meet big power officials in Baghdad on Wednesday.

Mr Amano meets Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili today, two days before Mr Jalili sits across a table in the Iraqi capital from Catherine Ashton, the senior EU official heading a coalition of the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany.

By promising cooperation with UN inspectors, diplomats say Iran might aim for leverage ahead of the broader negotiations, where the US and its allies want Iran to halt works they say are cover for developing nuclear weapons.

Sanctions on Iran’s energy exports, and threats by Israel and Washington of military action, have pushed up world oil prices.

Western diplomats say Mr Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, would only make a rare visit to Tehran if he believed an agreement was close. – (Reuters)