U.N. nuclear chief headed to Iran, inspection deal in the works
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency heads to Iran on Sunday for high-level meetings ahead of next week's gathering in Baghdad of world powers hoping to persuade Tehran to reopen its nuclear program to outside inspection.
IAEA director Yukiya Amano will meet with Iran's lead nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, during his first visit to Iran, the agency said on its website.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, told the Associated Press that Amano was expected to work out details of an agreement that would allow resumption of inspections of its developing nuclear capabilities.
Iran insists its programs are intended for peaceful purposes, including energy generation and medical research. But the United States and other Western countries fear that Tehran is intent on developing nuclear weapons.
A second round of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear activity opens in the Iraqi capital Wednesday with the so-called 5-plus-1 forum, the permanent U.N. Security Council members -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- and Germany.
The two sides met for an informal exchange in Istanbul last month, when proposals surfaced that would have Tehran agree to limit its uranium enrichment to levels below what is required for nuclear warheads.
Amano's visit to Tehran ahead of the Baghdad talks was expected to prepare the ground for an announcement at the gathering that the four-year standoff over International Atomic Energy Agency access to Iranian nuclear sites has been resolved.
--Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures during a tour of a new facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy-water nuclear reactor outside the city of Isfahan in this April 9, 2009, photo. Credit: Vahid Salemi/AP