By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — Eight hours of negotiations between U.N. officials and Iran’s nuclear policy envoy ended Friday without an agreement for inspectors to visit suspect Iranian facilities, the U.N. nuclear agency’s deputy director said.
Herman Nackaerts, the International Atomic Energy Agency official responsible for inspections and other safeguards, said that no date had been set for further talks.
Nackaerts said in a statement posted on the Vienna-based agency’s website that “important differences remain” between the IAEA and Iran over a plan under discussion for months that would open key Iranian nuclear sites to agency inspectors.
The IAEA delegation entered the latest talks with Iran “with a constructive spirit” and an expectation that the few remaining differences could be ironed out for “clarification of concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program, focusing on its possible military dimensions,” he said.
Nackaerts seemed to indicate that the talks were at an impasse, concluding his account of Friday’s marathon session with the observation that “at the moment we have no plans for a follow-up meeting.”
Iran’s negotiator, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters in Vienna after the meeting that the two sides “are moving forward.”
The apparently fruitless Vienna meeting followed diplomatic reports a day earlier that Iran has significantly expanded its uranium enrichment capabilities that could allow it to break out a nuclear weapons program sooner than previously thought.
Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Ken Dilanian of the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau that Iran has boosted its number of centrifuges, critical to the process of enriching uranium, from 700 to 1,500, although the newer equipment isn’t believed to be working yet.
U.S. intelligence officials accuse Iran of violating its obligations under nuclear nonproliferation agreements and failing to prove that its nuclear programs are solely for peaceful civilian purposes, as Tehran has long contended. But they continue to believe Iran is a year or two away from being able to produce a bomb, if and when Tehran decides to pursue it.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday that the United States believes time remains to seek a negotiated solution to the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear programs.
Israel, on the other hand, has warned that it may launch airstrikes against Iranian facilities because of the mounting indications of Iranian cover-ups of past nuclear testing at its Parchin facility, and the speeding up of uranium-processing capabilities at its plant in Fordow.
Parallel negotiations between Iran and six global powers are also in recess following three gatherings earlier this year of senior officials. The talks in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow likewise ended without progress.