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Iranian Base Still a Focus for Nuclear Investigators: IAEA Chief

Obtaining access to an Iranian military base suspected to have housed bomb-relevant nuclear experiments is still "a priority" for U.N. investigators, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano told AOL Defense in comments reported on Wednesday.

The push to visit Iran's Parchin facility has played significantly into ongoing efforts by the Vienna, Austria-based organization to negotiate ground rules for examining indications that Tehran has engaged in activities that could be linked to pursuit of an atomic arsenal. Tehran, which insists its nuclear efforts are purely peaceful, has refused to open the site to agency auditors at a succession of gatherings held since early 2012.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog this week said it plans on May 15 to hold what would be its 10th meeting with Iran aimed at hammering out terms for  the probe. Key stumbling blocks in talks over the past year have included the agency's reluctance to provide Iran with documents that serve as the basis for its suspicions, as well as Tehran's call to limit the inquiry to predefined questions that could not be revisited once answered.

"If we are asked to have to draw a conclusion before going to the next issue, that is too much for us," Amano said in an April 9 interview. "If our hands and legs are bound, we can't do our job."

Still, "if there is some political intention and the right timing, I think we can reach agreement," he said.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of officials and issue experts have urged the United States to assume a less antagonistic stance toward Iran in light of the country's June presidential vote, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.

Washington has joined five other global powers -- China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom -- in a series of talks with Iran aimed at bringing an end to the nuclear impasse. The meetings, most recently earlier this month in Kazakhstan, have not produced notable progress in that direction.

Iranian deputy nuclear envoy Ali Bagheri on Thursday told Reuters that Tehran is ready for more talks and that the nation is progressing with conversion of higher-enriched uranium into a form that could not be easily refined to weapon-grade levels.

"We produce 20 percent uranium to provide fuel for Tehran's research reactor, also four other reactors in four different parts of Iran which are under construction. With this in mind, plans have been drawn up to convert 20 percent uranium to 20 percent oxide," Bagheri said. "This is very much going according to plan. This activity is ongoing."

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