U.N. official says deal close on Iran nuclear inspections (LA TIMES) By Paul Richter AMMAN, Jordan 05/23/12)
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Yukiya Amano, chief of the IAEA, says the nuclear watchdog agency is
close to reaching a deal with Iran to give inspectors access to some
AMMAN, Jordan ó The United Nations´ atomic watchdog agency said it
was close to a deal giving inspectors access to some of Iran´s
disputed nuclear sites, providing a dose of optimism as diplomats
prepared for new talks to overcome their standoff with the Islamic
Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy
Agency, said he expected to sign a deal with Iran "quite soon." He
spoke to reporters in Vienna after returning from Tehran -- the first
time Iranian officials had been willing to meet with him in their
capital since he became head of the agency in 2009.
Amano, who has pressed hard for Iran to provide better access to its
nuclear sites and personnel, told reporters he considered the deal to
be "an important development," according to a transcript released by
The news came as diplomats from the U.N., the United States and five
other major powers prepared to meet this week in Baghdad with Iranian
officials for negotiations over Iran´s nuclear ambitions. Taken
together, the developments appeared to ease tensions.
For months, talk of war has dominated discussions about Iran. The
Tehran government insists its nuclear program is strictly for
peaceful purposes, but officials in the U.S., Israel and some
European countries suspect Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Israeli officials have strongly suggested they might bomb Iranian
nuclear sites if they believe the Iranian efforts have gone too far.
Obama administration officials have suggested recently that there may
be grounds for optimism about diplomatic progress. U.S. officials
were encouraged by the atmosphere at a mid-April meeting with Iranian
officials in Istanbul, Turkey.
Some diplomats say they have seen signs that Iran, under crushing
pressure from international economic sanctions, may be open to
negotiating at least a preliminary deal.
Others, however, cautioned that the Iranians often have dangled
concessions as a way to buy time. Israeli officials reacted
skeptically to Amano´s announcement.
A senior U.S. official said Tuesday that an agreement between the
IAEA and Iran would be a "good thing," but stressed that the IAEA´s
investigations into Iran´s nuclear program "are about accounting for
the past, not about the future."
The negotiations in Baghdad, in which Iranian officials will meet
with diplomats from the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and
Germany, are over future limits to Iran´s nuclear efforts and are
therefore more consequential, the official said.
At those negotiations, the six world powers will press Iran to stop
enriching uranium to 20% purity, a level at which the material can
quickly be enriched to bomb grade, and to surrender the stockpile of
highly enriched uranium it already has. In return, they are promising
to provide Iran fuel for a small nuclear reactor used for medical
purposes and to hold off on imposing additional U.N. sanctions.
But they are not promising what Iran wants most: relief from tough
sanctions on its oil exports and its central bank that have been put
in place since the end of last year. Those sanctions have severely
disrupted Iran´s economy.
Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, said Tuesday
that it was improper for Western nations to continue adding
sanctions, government-controlled Press TV reported.
Western diplomats have expressed concern for some time that Iran
might try to satisfy IAEA calls for access to its facilities and
scientists, then argue that it had done everything necessary to bring
its program into compliance with international rules.
Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, has been demanding in particular
that the Iranians open access to a military facility at Parchin. IAEA
officials are concerned that the Iranians might have tested
detonating devices there that would be suitable for use in nuclear
Amano didn´t say that Iran would grant access to the Parchin site. He
said only that the question of access "will be addressed" in the
deal. He also acknowledged that differences remain between the IAEA
and the Iranians, though he emphasized that those disagreements would
not stand in the way of a deal.
Israeli officials were unconvinced by Amano´s report of progress.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Iran appeared to be trying to create
an "appearance of progress" to "reduce the pressure ahead of talks in
Baghdad and to postpone an escalation in sanctions." He urged
international negotiators to hold firm.
"Israel believes that Iran should be set a clear bar so that there is
no window or crack the Iranians can proceed through toward a military
nuclear program," he said. "The requirements of the world powers must
be clear and unequivocal."
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and
International Security and a former weapons inspector, also expressed
caution, saying he had concerns that the U.N. agency might have
yielded important ground to obtain a deal.
"I have more worries than hopes," Albright said. "I just want to see
what´s in the deal." Times staff writer Edmund Sanders in Jerusalem
contributed to this report. (Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times
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