Iran, UN nuclear agency to meet again after "constructive" talks

Reuters

* Iran meets IAEA day after talks at UN in New York

* Will meet again for "substantial" talks on Oct. 28

* New president seeks end to dispute within six months

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Iran and the U.N. nuclear agencyheld "constructive" talks on Friday and made plans to meet againin one month, adding to momentum for a negotiated end to astandoff that could otherwise potentially flare into war.

The discussions in Vienna, home of the International AtomicEnergy Agency (IAEA), took place as new President Hassan Rouhaniwas telling world powers in New York he wanted a deal withinmonths to end the long-running dispute.

The IAEA talks are distinct from Iran's meetings with worldpowers, but both diplomatic tracks centre on suspicions thatIran may be seeking the capability to assemble nuclear bombsbehind the facade of a civilian atomic energy programme.

Israel and the United States have threatened possiblepre-emptive strikes on Iran if diplomacy fails. Iran says itsnuclear programme is a peaceful bid to generate electricity, andnot aimed at building weapons.

Herman Nackaerts, IAEA deputy director general, said thediscussions, at Iran's diplomatic mission in Vienna, had been"very constructive" but gave no details. At the next meeting onOct. 28, Iran and the IAEA would "start substantial discussionson the way forward to resolve all outstanding issues," he said.

That would be almost two weeks after Iran meets the sixworld powers again, in Geneva on Oct. 15-16, as part of whatEuropean Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called an"ambitious timetable" to address Western concerns.

Analysts suspect that Iran may seek to use the IAEA talks tohelp win relief from sanctions as part of any wider politicalsettlement with the powers - the United States, France, Britain,Germany, Russia and China.

ACCESS

The IAEA - in its role of preventing the spread of atomicarms - wants a deal allowing it to resume a long-stalled inquiryinto suspected nuclear weapons research in Iran.

The Vienna meeting - the 11th since January 2012 - wasshorter than previous ones, just over four hours, suggestingthat any concrete progress would have to wait for the follow-up.The IAEA is seeking access to Iranian sites, officials anddocuments for its investigation.

Iranian Ambassador Reza Najafi, leading the IslamicRepublic's negotiating team for the first time since hisappointment last month, said he hoped for an agreement soon.

"We, indeed, should continue these constructive discussionsand we hope that we could reach an agreement as soon aspossible," he told reporters, standing next to Nackaerts.

For several years, the IAEA has been investigatingsuspicions that Iran may have coordinated efforts to processuranium, test explosives and revamp a ballistic missile cone ina way suitable for a nuclear warhead.

Iran says the allegations are baseless, but has pledged,since Rouhani took office in early August, to expand cooperationwith the U.N. agency. Western diplomats have accused Iran ofobstructing the IAEA investigation in the past.

Israel, believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in theMiddle East, has said Iran's new, conciliatory approach ismerely an attempt to "buy time" to push ahead with its nuclearwork without fear of military action.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian ForeignMinister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who met privately in New York onThursday as well as in talks with other major powers about thenuclear dispute, both expressed cautious optimism.

Iran says its programme is a peaceful, but its refusal tocurb sensitive nuclear work and lack of full openness with IAEAinspectors have drawn tough Western sanctions, hurting itslifeline oil exports.

Rouhani said this week that Iran would never develop nuclearweapons and called for a nuclear deal in three to six months.

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