Senior UN nuclear inspectors plan another trip to Iran later this month after holding what both sides described as good talks on the Islamic state's disputed atomic program.
The Jan 29-31 talks in Tehran were a rare direct dialogue in the long-running international stand-off, which has worsened in recent weeks as the West pursues a punitive embargo on Iranian oil and Tehran threatens retaliation.
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"The Agency is committed to intensifying dialogue. It remains essential to make progress on substantive issues," Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement.
Tehran says its uranium enrichment program is solely for peaceful electricity generation and has dismissed allegations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons as baseless.
Led by the UN agency's global head of inspections, the IAEA team returned on Wednesday from three days of meetings in Iran to try to end three years of deadlock in efforts to resolve the questions about Tehran's nuclear work.
The fact both sides said talks would resume suggested the round just completed at least created some basis for progress.
"We are committed to resolve all the outstanding issues and the Iranians said they are committed too," Herman Nackaerts, IAEA deputy director general, told reporters after returning from Tehran.
"But of course there is still a lot of work to be done and so we have planned another trip in the very near future."
Asked if he was satisfied with the talks, Nackaerts said: "Yeah, we had a good trip." He described the talks as "intensive discussions" with their Iranian counterparts but declined to give any more details, saying he first needed to brief his boss, Amano.
Later, the IAEA issued a brief statement saying another meeting would take place from Feb 21-22 in Tehran.
The UN agency said it had explained to Iran its "concerns and identified its priorities, which focus on
the clarification of possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program. "The IAEA also discussed with Iran the topics and initial steps to be taken, as well as associated modalities," it said.
Western diplomats based in Vienna, the IAEA's headquarters, said the jury was still out on whether the mission accomplished anything concrete.
"This visit will be judged by whether the Iranians provided the visiting IAEA team with cooperation on substantive issues. Anything short of that type of cooperation is not acceptable," one envoy said.
Proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick described Nackaerts' statement about more meetings as a positive sign.
"The IAEA would not be scheduling another trip unless they had an expectation of progress in clearing away at least some of the questions about suspicious past nuclear activity," said Fitzpatrick, a director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"We had very good meetings and we planned to continue these negotiations. The team had some questions about the claimed studies. One step has been taken forward," he told the semi- official Fars news agency in Tehran.
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