An agreement to allow international inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities failed to materialize during "disappointing" talks Friday between Iranian officials and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reported from Vienna.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said two weeks ago that the agency was on the verge of signing a deal with Tehran for access to its nuclear sites. An influential Iranian politician also hinted broadly at the time that access would be granted to the Parchin military complex, where the IAEA has said it suspects preparations have been made to build nuclear weapons.
The failure of the nuclear watchdog agency to get Tehran to agree to outside checks was "disappointing," IAEA Deputy Director Herman Nackaerts said in a statement after the eight-hour meeting at agency headquarters in Vienna on Friday.
"The agency team came to the meeting in a constructive spirit with the desire and intention of finalizing the paper," Nackaerts said of a draft agreement revised to address concerns Iran conveyed to Amano during a May 21 meeting in Tehran. "However, there has been no progress and, indeed, Iran raised issues that we have already discussed and added new ones. This is disappointing."
No date was set for another meeting with the U.N. agency, but Iran is scheduled to meet with a six-nation group in Moscow later this month for talks on the nature and scope of its nuclear programs.
While Iran's No. 2 negotiator on nuclear matters, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, met with Nackaerts and Assistant IAEA Director Rafael Mariano Grossi, top Iranian officials speaking elsewhere exhibited little inclination to compromise.
The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Iran's nuclear point man, Saeed Jalili of the Supreme National Security Council, as telling an international security meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, that "certain powers" were using the pretext of energy security to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Jalili accused "Zionist" agents of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, and hinted without naming the United States directly that Washington seeks to deny Iran its right to develop nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes.
In Beijing, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assured Chinese and Afghan leaders that Tehran isn't working to create nuclear weapons, the official New China News Agency reported. But Ahmadinejad also said he wouldn't be threatened into abandoning nuclear ambitions by outside forces. Israeli leaders consider a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat and have threatened military action.
Israel and the United States reacted skeptically to Amano's May 22 proclamation of an imminent agreement on inspections of Iranian facilities and have suggested Tehran is engaged in diversionary tactics with its recent diplomatic activities. Jalili has met with negotiators from the so-called P5-plus-1 group -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany -- twice in the past month for sessions that resulted in little more than setting dates for further talks.
The Moscow gathering beginning June 17 will be the third meeting with diplomats of the six powers. The group has proposed assistance to Tehran in boosting nuclear power production in exchange for assurances that Iran will cease enriching uranium to 20% purity -- a level that can be upgraded quickly to weapons-grade.
--Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Asghar Soltanieh speaks to the press after meeting with IAEA officials in Vienna on Friday. IAEA Deputy Director Herman Nackaerts, in suit at left, said there was "no progress" toward gaining access for inspectors to Tehran's nuclear facilities. Credit: Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images