Nuclear talks with Iran hit new hurdle: The UN nuclear watchdog said Wednesday that it had failed to secure an agreement with Iran
during two days of talks over disputed atomic activities and that the Islamic Republic had rejected a request to visit a key military site.
In the second such trip in less than a month, a senior team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had travelled to Tehran to press Iranian officials to start addressing mounting concerns that the Islamic Republic may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
The outcome seems likely to add to already soaring tension between Iran and Western powers, which have ratcheted up sanctions on the major oil producer
in recent months.
"During both the first and second round of discussions, the agency team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place," the Vienna-based IAEA
said in a statement after the Feb 20-21 talks.
The IAEA named Parchin in a detailed report in November that lent independent weight to Western fears that Iran was working to develop an atomic bomb,
an allegation Iranian officials reject.
"It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin. We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
Earlier, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the country's ISNA news agency that Tehran expected to hold more talks with the UN agency, whose task it is to prevent the spread of nuclear reapons in the world.
Last year's IAEA report suggesting Iran had pursued military nuclear technology
helped precipitate the latest rounds of European Union and US sanctions, which are causing economic hardship in Iran ahead of a parliamentary election in March.
Ahmadinejad visiting a nuclear facility (Photo: EPA)
The IAEA said intensive efforts were made to reach agreement in the talks on a document "facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues" in connection with Iran's nuclear program, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions.
"Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document," it said in an unusually blunt statement.
But Amano's spokeswoman, Gill Tudor, made clear no further meetings were planned: "At this point in time there is no agreement on further discussions," she said.
Iran rejects accusations that its nuclear program is a covert bid to develop a nuclear weapons capability, saying it is seeking to produce only electricity.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out using force against Iran if they conclude diplomacy and sanctions will not stop it from developing a nuclear bomb.
In Washington, no immediate comment was available from the US State Department on the IAEA statement.
The five-member IAEA team led by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts was seeking answers from Iran about intelligence suggesting its declared civilian program is a facade for a weapons program.
Yitzhak Benhorin, in Washington contributed to this report