The International Atomic Energy Agency plans to push in discussions starting on Wednesday to break a longstanding deadlock with Iran over a probe into possible military aspects of the nation's atomic program, a top IAEA delegate to the upcoming meeting said.
"Differences remain," IAEA safeguards chief Herman Nackaerts said on Tuesday in comments reported by Reuters. "We will work hard to try to resolve these differences."
The sides have attempted on multiple occasions in the last year to establish ground rules for the U.N. nuclear organization to investigate intelligence indications that Iran has carried out experiments relevant to nuclear weapons development. Tehran, which insists its atomic activities are strictly peaceful, held its previous meeting with the Vienna, Austria-based agency in January.
Iran might grant U.N. inspectors access to its Parchin base under a potential inspection plan, the Associated Press quoted the Iranian Foreign Ministry as saying on Tuesday. Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast did not specify the timing of a possible IAEA visit to the site, which Tehran has placed off-limits to scrutiny several times in the past year.
Still, an envoy in Vienna said "hopes are not high" within the U.N. organization for this week's meeting, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday. The insider said "it doesn't seem as if any of the areas of difficulty have been resolved."
China and Russia appear "increasingly frustrated with Iran," the official said, adding "there is some optimism" that the governments could support referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
Meanwhile, Tehran on Tuesday confirmed it had started changing a quantity of its 20 percent-enriched uranium to a form less easily made into nuclear-weapon fuel, potentially delaying the point when the nation is expected to amass enough of the more sensitive material for a bomb, Reuters reported.
An Israeli government insider said a senior U.S. arms control official had reaffirmed to Tel Aviv this week "the Americans' commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran, and their worries about regional proliferation, were Iran to go nuclear." The official reportedly took part in the discussion with Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said new uranium refinement gear being installed at an Iranian facility would cut by one-third the time it would need to amass enough of higher-enriched material for a weapon.
"How do you stop it? Well, you have to put greater pressure on them. You have to upgrade the sanctions. And they have to know that if the sanctions and diplomacy fails, they will face incredible military threat," he said in a released transcript of his remarks.