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Iran

UN says it's close to nuclear inspection deal with Iran

The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog has said a fresh deal allowing inspectors into Iran would be signed "quite soon." Yukiya Amano described the headway apparently made with Tehran as an important development.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, said Tuesday that the UN body would soon sign a deal with Iran allowing inspectors to observe the country's nuclear program.

"A decision was made to conclude and sign an agreement … I can say it will be signed quite soon," Amano said after returning to the IAEA's Vienna headquarters from Tehran. The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog conducted talks with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

The promised agreement would also include the right to inspect the Parchin military site near Tehran, where some Western powers believe Iran is conducting nuclear warhead tests.

Amano said that Jalili had told him the two sides' "existing differences will not be an obstacle to the agreement," without elaborating further.

"We understand each other's position better," he concluded.

Cautious response and prelude

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, while Israel, the US and others believe the country is seeking atomic weapons.

Robert Wood, the acting US envoy to the IAEA, spoke to reporters in Vienna shortly after Amano.

"While we appreciate the efforts [by the IAEA] to conclude a substantive agreement, we remain concerned by the urgent obligation for Iran to take concrete steps to cooperate fully," Wood said.

Across the Atlantic in Washington, Senators on Monday passed a fresh round of sanctions against Tehran, targeting the National Iranian Oil Co. and the National Iranian Tanker Co., with minority Republican leader Mitch McConnell saying that any policy aiming to end "Iran's effort to acquire a nuclear weapon needs to convince the rulers in Tehran that their survival is in question."

Amano's upbeat announcement came less than a day ahead of a Wednesday meeting in Baghdad between Iran and the so-called P5+1; the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

msh/mz (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)