International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano arrived in Tehran on Monday for talks with senior Iranian officials on issues related to the country's disputed nuclear program.
Amano is accompanied by his deputy, Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi, as well as the agency's lead inspector Herman Nackaerts. The visit comes ahead of the forthcoming nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers in the Iraqi capital Baghdad later this week.
During their one-day visit, the IAEA delegation is expected to hold talks with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, Director of the country's Atomic Energy Organization.
"There has been good progress during the recent round of discussions between Iran and the IAEA. "I really think this is the right time to reach agreement. Nothing is certain but I stay positive and I go there with constructive spirit," Amano told reporters in Vienna before leaving for Tehran.
"There has been good progress during the recent rounds of discussions between Iran and IAEA. So I thought that now is the right time... to visit Iran and have direct talks with high officials," the IAEA chief added.
Media reports suggested that the high-ranking IAEA delegation's visit to Tehran is aimed at negotiating a framework agreement that would give the U.N. agency's inspectors greater access to Iranian nuclear facilities. Experts expect Iran to make some concessions in their negotiations with the IAEA delegation as any commitment to co-operate with the nuclear watchdog would give Iran a much-needed leverage ahead of Wednesday's talks in Baghdad.
Notably, previous negotiations between Iranian and IAEA officials have ended in failure. Moreover, Iran has refused visiting IAEA delegations access to a military site on two occasions since the beginning of this year. The last round of talks held between the two sides held in March had ended without any progress over the issue. But Tehran has since said that it is willing to allow IAEA officials to inspect the site citing an overall agreement reached between the two on all outstanding issues.
Since then, Iran held a round of negotiations with the six world powers, namely the U.S., UK, France, Russia, Germany and China, on its nuclear programs in the Turkish city of Istanbul in April. During those talks, the participants agreed to tackle the issue through step-by-step negotiations and by responding to the progress made by initiating reciprocity actions.
Iran insists that its nuclear activity is intended for peaceful civilian purposes, but the West suspects the claim to be a cover up for the country's nuclear weapon ambitions. Nevertheless, Tehran argues that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as it is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA.
Iran has already survived four sets of sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council following its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Analysts believe that Russia and China, both allies of Iran, are unlikely to support further U.N. sanctions against Tehran over the issue.
Further, the United States and its allies, including Britain and Canada, imposed separate sanctions on Iran after an IAEA report in November cautioned that Iran may be planning to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. sanctions include those signed into law by President Barack Obama in December with the intention of crippling Iran's oil revenue, the main source of finance for the nuclear program.
The sanctions authorize the U.S. administration to bar foreign financial institutions that engage in financial transactions with Iran's central bank and oil sector, making it difficult for Tehran to sell its crude oil in the international market. The U.S. had earlier banned its banks from doing business with the Iranian central bank.
Also, the EU has barred member-states from importing, purchasing and transporting Iranian crude oil and petroleum products from July 1. The 27-member bloc also froze the assets of the Iranian central bank within the EU, while ensuring legitimate trade would continue under strict conditions. Iran has since halted oil sales to several EU nations, including Britain, France and Germany.
by RTT Staff Writer
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