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U.N. Nuclear Agency Mulls Expanding Iran Team Under Accord

Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Reza Najafi speaks to reporters in November at the U.N. nuclear watchdog's Vienna headquarters. The agency is examining how to increase its presence in Iran to verify the country's compliance with a multilateral nuclear agreement. Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Reza Najafi speaks to reporters in November at the U.N. nuclear watchdog's Vienna headquarters. The agency is examining how to increase its presence in Iran to verify the country's compliance with a multilateral nuclear agreement. (Alexander Klein/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Atomic Energy Agency is mulling how to expand its activities in Iran to help enforce an international nuclear accord, Reuters reports.

Envoys said the U.N. organization would probably deploy more auditors to Iran, and may open a short-term central office in the country to help address the agreement's call for more frequent visits to Iranian atomic sites. The stepped-up monitoring is a central component of a November deal intended as a first step toward addressing global fears that Iran's ostensibly peaceful nuclear program is masking development of a bomb capability.

The possible new surveillance measures would require the Middle Eastern nation's backing. On Sunday, a spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said the Vienna-based agency had yet to propose the prospective moves to Tehran, the state-run Fars News Agency reported.

In a telephone press conference held on Monday, one of the senior Obama administration officials participating said that the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany would not grant Iran any sanctions relief promised under the interim nuclear deal until IAEA inspectors "make certain that Iran has begun to fulfill its commitments."

The agency now visits Iran's two declared uranium-enrichment facilities roughly once a week to help ensure that materials there are not supporting nuclear-arms efforts, Reuters reported. Trips to those sites and others are expected take place each day under the six-month deal, which is slated to take effect on Jan. 20 under terms reached on Sunday.

Obama administration officials speaking during the question-and-answer session refused to discuss specifics of the tightened surveillance addressed in Sunday's nuclear-deal implementation plan.

"The IAEA and the EU as a lead negotiating body for the P-5+1 will make those determinations about what to make public," one of the insiders said.

The U.N. agency has refused to provide specifics from an ongoing assessment of financial and labor demands tied to the increased monitoring, according to Reuters. In December, though, envoys pegged the agency's anticipated cost increase at around $6.8 million, and said member nations would help to underwrite the additional expenses.

The agency's new responsibilities in Iran are the anticipated focus of a special IAEA Board of Governors gathering later this month.

Meanwhile, a senior Iranian nuclear official said Tehran is poised to enter a new stage in separate negotiations with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Iran's Press TV reported on Friday. Those talks are focused on expanding an IAEA investigation into allegations that the Persian Gulf power has carried out nuclear bomb-related activities in the past.

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