Talks held this weekend between International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) representatives and Iranian representatives in Vienna ended in failure. The talks were conducted ahead of a quarterly IAEA report to be submitted this week, which will likely indicate that Iran’s uranium enrichment programme continues.
“The discussions today were intensive but important differences remain between Iran and the UN that prevented agreement,” Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA’s chief inspector, told journalists after about seven hours of talks with the Iranian delegation in Vienna. ”At the moment we have no plans for another meeting,” he said in concluding remarks. Little headway appeared to have been made on the IAEA’s most urgent request – access for its inspectors to the Parchin military site where the agency believes Iran has conducted explosive tests relevant for the developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said ”undoubtedly some progress” was made but that differences remain, “because it is a very complex issue … issues related to national security of a member state are something very delicate.
Tension mounted on Friday when diplomatic sources said Iran had installed many more uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Fordow underground site. The diplomatic sources also said satellite imagery indicated Iran had used a tent-like structure to cover a building at Parchin, increasing concern about the possible removal of evidence of illicit nuclear work there.
IAEA inspectors utilise both site visits and electronic means to supervise Iran’s Natanz and Fordow facilities. However, when inspectors arrive at Fordow they are often not allowed to enter the site to count the number of nuclear fuel rods that Iran has manufactured – an indicator of whether Tehran is attempting to weaponise its nuclear programme. UN Inspectors have never been permitted by Iran to go near the Parchin military base.
Following the failed talks, an IAEA report to be submitted this week is likely to conclude that Iran is continuing with its uranium enrichment programme, despite tough economic sanctions. The report will also likely indicate that since the last assessment, the number of centrifuges that are working deep underground at the installation in Fordow has grown by another few hundred.
With talks stalling and evidence suggesting Iran’s continued uranium enrichment, Israel has signalled that its patience with diplomacy is fading. “Only yesterday we received additional proof that Iran is continuing accelerated progress towards achieving nuclear weapons and is totally ignoring international demands,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the talks ended.