The International Atomic Energy Agency resumed closed talks Tuesday on Iran's nuclear program in an effort to avoid escalation in the stand-off with the Islamic Republic. Russian and American diplomats disagree on the next steps to ensure that Iran's nuclear installations will not be used to produce atomic bombs.
Russia is continuing its drive to mediate in the dispute between Iran and the IAEA. One plan would be to move large-scale enrichment to Russia from Iran, which would reduce the chance that Tehran could secretly make nuclear arms. The Russian initiative would leave Iran in control of a small-scale enrichment program, something which until now has met with opposition from European countries and the United States.
Western diplomats are now struggling to find a solution which would take a tough line against Iran without provoking retaliatory measures.
The IAEA hopes Iran will accept the new initiative so that United Nations Security Council action will not be necessary. The IAEA would monitor any small-scale enrichment on Iranian soil.
But Matthew Boland, press spokesman for the U.S. mission to the IAEA in Vienna, told VOA there is no indication of any change of heart on the part of Iran.
"On February 4, the IAEA reported Iran to the Security Council," he noted. "Included in that report are the steps that the international community has called on Iran to take to provide assurances that its program is intended for peaceful purposes. The IAEA report makes clear that Iran has not taken these steps".
The U.S. wants Iran to cease all enrichment activity on its territory and to hand over sensitive documents to the IAEA as requested. The U.N. nuclear watchdog also wants to interview scientists working on the Iranian nuclear program, but the United States says Tehran has denied access.
Iran says it has a right to nuclear technology and that its program is purely peaceful. The IAEA executive meeting in Vienna is expected to continue all week.