Reuters: The U.N. nuclear chief said on Friday he would consider accepting an invitation to visit Iran but stressed it would have to yield concrete results, urging Tehran to address suspicions of military-linked atom activity.
By Fredrik Dahl and Sylvia Westall
VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear chief said on Friday he would consider accepting an invitation to visit Iran but stressed it would have to yield concrete results, urging Tehran to address suspicions of military-linked atom activity.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said he had agreed in a meeting with Iran’s atomic energy head Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani this week that the two sides needed to talk.
But he said they remained far apart on substantive issues related to Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA and Tehran’s refusal to heed U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend sensitive nuclear work.
Amano, who has taken a blunter approach towards the Islamic state than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, met with Abbasi-Davani on the sidelines of a week-long, international nuclear safety meeting in the Austrian capital.
Abbasi-Davani said after the June 21 meeting he had held “very good” and “transparent” talks with Amano and that he had invited him to visit the Islamic state’s nuclear facilities.
Asked about the invitation, Amano told a news conference: “I will consider visiting Tehran at an appropriate time but a constructive, concrete result is needed if I visit.”
It was the first time they had met since Abbasi-Davani, a nuclear scientist, was appointed head of Iran’s atomic agency earlier this year.
The United Nations has imposed sanctions on him because of what Western officials said was his involvement in suspected nuclear weapons research.
Amano, who said in a report last year that he feared Iran may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile, said he had raised the issue of activities linked to the military in the country.
“I asked for their cooperation to clarify these activities,” he said. “There is no difference of view to continue the dialogue,” Amano added. “But of course on substantial issues … there is difference, it is obvious.”
VIRTUAL NUCLEAR STATE
Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran rejects the charge and says its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity.
For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone so it could take a nuclear warhead.
Iran says the allegations are baseless and forged.
Its refusal to halt enrichment has led to four rounds of U.N. sanctions on the major oil producer, as well tighter U.S. and European Union restrictions. Enriched uranium can have both civilian and military purposes.
A former head of IAEA inspections worldwide, Olli Heinonen, said Iran seemed determined to at least achieve the capability to make a nuclear weapon, and the country could next year have enough fissile material for an atomic device.
Heinonen, who resigned from the IAEA in 2010 and is now at Harvard University, made the comment to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday.
“It appears that Iran is determined to, at the very least, achieve a ‘virtual nuclear weapon state’ capability, or in other words be in a position to build a nuclear device, if it so decides,” the Finnish nuclear expert said.
“Based on present output capacity at Natanz and barring stops or slowdowns, Iran is able to generate sufficient amounts of fissile material at minimum for a nuclear device, sometime in 2012,” he said, referring to Iran’s Natanz enrichment plant.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)