UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano and top aides will travel to Tehran on May 19 for talks with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, a few days before the Islamic state and world powers meet in Baghdad to discuss the broader nuclear dispute. News of the rare visit came as Western diplomats said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran were making headway toward a framework deal on how to tackle concerns about the Islamic Republic’s atomic activity.
The IAEA wants Iran to address issues raised by an agency report last year that revealed intelligence pointing to past and possibly ongoing activity in Iran of use in developing the means and technologies needed to build nuclear bombs. Iran says the intelligence is fabricated, but the UN agency says its inspectors need access to sites, documents and officials to reach credible conclusions in its inquiry.
The last visit by an IAEA chief to Tehran was by Amano’s predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, in October 2009. Herman Nackaerts, head of IAEA nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide, and Assistant Director General Rafael Grossi will accompany Amano, the statement said. The IAEA and Iran held talks this week in Vienna and had been due to meet again on May 21 in the Austrian capital. The IAEA will now visit Tehran instead, raising the stakes for a substantial outcome. Amano, who has taken a blunter approach toward Iran and its nuclear programme than ElBaradei, has previously said any visit by him to Tehran would need to yield concrete results.