Tehran to restart talks with UN nuclear inspectors


IRAN IS due to open talks with United Nations nuclear inspectors tomorrow in an attempt to allay their suspicions of a covert Iranian weapons programme, the first such discussions in more than three years.

The three days of meetings in Tehran between Iranian nuclear officials and a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) represent the only diplomatic progress in over a year, as tensions mount over Iran’s programme and western attempts to cut off the country’s oil trade.

Diplomats familiar with the visit said the IAEA team would seek assurances that they will be able to interview key Iranian scientists suspected of past involvement in weapons research, visit sensitive sites and see documents concerning the procurement of dual-use technology. The Iranian government denies it is seeking to make nuclear weapons, insisting its research is for scientific or civil power-generating purposes.

Diplomats and analysts have played down prospects of a quick breakthrough.

If the talks were to collapse, the pressure on Iran could intensify.

The IAEA has warned that Tehran could be referred to the UN Security Council for possible further punitive measures if it fails to co-operate.

On Thursday, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Tehran was ready to resume broader talks with the international community, broken off over a year ago. However, the office of Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief who co-ordinates a six-nation group handling negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme, said that Tehran had made no formal move towards restarting the dialogue.

The IAEA team, led by the agency’s chief inspector, Herman Nackaerts, and an assistant director general, Rafael Grossi, is seeking Iranian explanations for evidence, described as “credible” in an IAEA report in November, pointing to past experimentation on nuclear weapons design.

“We are not saying that Iran has one, two or three nuclear devices. We are saying that Iran has, at different stages of development, technology that is directly linked to the development of a nuclear device,” Mr Grossi, an Argentinian diplomat, told the Buenos Aires Herald.

At the Tehran meeting, he said that the IAEA team would “try to draft a road map to see how we tackle specific issues, including those related to the PMDs”.

The PMDs, or possible military dimensions, refer to evidence of Iranian experimentation with hemispheric arrays of high explosives of the kind used in implosive nuclear warheads, and other apparently weapons-related research. The IAEA report said that most of the evidence suggested a centrally-organised weapons programme up to 2003, with less sign of work such as computer modelling since then.

Iran has dismissed some of the evidence as fabricated and previously claimed some of the experiments referred to in IAEA reports were for non-military purposes. It has, however, prevented IAEA inspectors from talking to Mohsen Fahkrizadeh, the scientist reported to have led the most sensitive research. Tehran broke off the last substantive talks on the subject in the summer of 2008.

Meanwhile, an American aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, has arrived in the Gulf, accompanied by British and French warships. – ( Guardianservice)