VIENNA— Iran's new proposal to U.N. inspectors is practical and meant to “solve the issue”, an Iranian envoy said before a second day of talks on Tuesday, a hint Tehran may cooperate more with an inquiry into suspected nuclear arms research in the country.
A series of meetings since early 2012 have yielded no deal that would give the International Atomic Energy Agency access to sites, files and officials relevant to its investigation. But the election in June of a moderate Iranian president has opened doors for good-faith negotiations to end the deadlock.
Reza Najafi, Iran's new ambassador to the IAEA, made the comment late on Monday to an Iranian news agency after he and other Iranian officials met with senior IAEA experts at the agency's Vienna headquarters.
Tehran denies having any nuclear weapons ambitions, saying it is enriching uranium and trying to master nuclear technology only for electricity generation and medical treatments.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in Vienna on Monday that he had put forward proposals to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and pledged a “new approach” in dealings with the U.N. agency. But he gave no details.
“Our proposal is practical and intended to solve the issue between Iran and the agency,” Najafi told the ISNA news agency, adding that Iranian and IAEA experts had “entered into substantive discussions in these negotiations”.
Najafi made clear he believed the time had come to find new ways to bridge differences between Iran and the IAEA on how the U.N. agency's investigation should be carried out.
“The approach of the past cannot be implemented and there must be changes to it,” Najafi said.
Expectations for this week's Vienna talks, the first since pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani took office, were relatively high and diplomats believed Iran might soon offer concessions, perhaps by permitting U.N. inspectors to visit its Parchin military base southeast of Tehran - long an IAEA priority.
The IAEA-Iran discussions resumed around 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Tuesday and were expected to end around lunchtime, officials from both sides said.
Taking advantage of the diplomatic opening enabled by Rouhani, Iran and six world powers have revived separate negotiations towards a broader political settlement of the nuclear dispute to head off any risk of a new Middle East war.
Their last meeting was held on Oct. 15-16 in Geneva, and another one is scheduled for Nov. 7-8.
An end to Iran's higher-grade enrichment of uranium is a central demand of the powers. Refining uranium to 20 percent is sensitive as it is a relatively short technical step to raise that to the 90 percent needed for a nuclear bomb.
Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful bid to generate electricity. But its refusal to curb activity that can also have military applications and lack of full openness with the IAEA have drawn increasingly tough sanctions, cutting Iran's daily oil sales earnings by 60 percent since 2011.