UN nuclear watchdog chief to visit Iran next week

UN nuclear watchdog chief to visit Iran next week

VIENNA - Reuters
UN nuclear watchdog chief to visit Iran next week

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Yukiya Amano speaks at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Nov. 1. AFP photo

The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief will hold talks with senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Nov. 8 with the aim of "strengthening dialogue and cooperation," the agency said.

Yukiya Amano's decision to accept an Iranian invitation may be a sign of progress in long-stalled efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to resume an investigation into the Islamic state's disputed atomic activities.

It was announced in Vienna as Iran and six world powers, in broader diplomatic negotiations in Geneva, sought to clinch an initial confidence-building agreement meant to end a decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear programme. 

While the two diplomatic tracks are separate, both focus on suspicions that Iran may be seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran says its programme is entirely peaceful.

An envoy in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, earlier this week told Reuters that he believed Amano would go to Tehran for a possible agreement with Iran on some "first steps" towards greater transparency in its programme, including the provision of design information about nuclear facilities.

The IAEA's talks with Iran are intended to set up an inspection regime to allow it to prove or disprove Western fears that Iran's nuclear programme includes weapons research, but a series of meetings since January 2012 have led nowhere. The IAEA wants access to sites, officials and documents in Iran as part of its inquiry. Iran denies any atomic bomb ambitions.