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Iran Talks Seen Hinging on Atomic Probe's 'Step Two'
Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on Wednesday discussed how to take their cooperation beyond a limited agreement they reached last month.
The terms they finalized on Nov. 11 are distinct from a nuclear accord that Iran reached later in the month with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany. Delegates from Iran and the U.N. agency in a joint statement said they spent Wednesday going over details on their six-pronged pact, intended to help international officials ensure that certain Iranian atomic activities are not contributing to arms development.
A senior U.S. official on Thursday suggested the fate of the more closely watched "P-5+1" deal -- designed to help negotiators hammer out a broader arrangement on the Middle Eastern nation's suspected nuclear-arms ambitions -- would rely heavily on the Persian Gulf power's cooperation in coming months with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Reading the joint statement, IAEA safeguards chief Tero Varjoranta noted that IAEA auditors achieved progress under that bilateral deal on Sunday. That day marked their first trip in over two years to an Iranian heavy-water facility that has stoked global concerns about Tehran's incipient capacity to make nuclear-bomb fuel.
"We also began to discuss the next practical steps -- step two," Varjoranta added in the shared remarks. "We aim to reach agreement on what those practical measures are in our next technical meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 21 in Tehran."
Speaking on Thursday, a senior U.S. State Department official said that to defuse tensions with the "P-5+1 countries, Iran must first dramatically expand cooperation with the U.N. atomic agency.
Tehran agreed with the six nations to "address past and present practices, which is the IAEA terminology for possible military dimensions" to its atomic efforts, Wendy Sherman, the U.S. undersecretary of State for political affairs, said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Thursday.
She said Iran's steps should include granting IAEA auditors access to its Parchin military base, where IAEA officials believe Tehran might have carried out nuclear arms-related experiments.
"We intend to support the IAEA in its efforts to deal with possible military dimensions, including Parchin," Sherman said in response to a question from Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), the panel's chairman.
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