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UN Nuclear Experts Plan Another Visit to Tehran

Herman Nackaerts (L), deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] who headed the six-member IAEA mission to Iran, talks to journalists on his arrival from Tehran at the international airport in Vienna, February 1, 2012.

The United Nation's nuclear agency's chief inspector says he had a "good" visit to Iran and plans to make another trip in the "very near future" to discuss Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Speaking Wednesday in Vienna after returning from Tehran, Herman Nackaerts said his team of International Atomic Energy Agency experts had three days of "intensive discussions" with Iran about all of its nuclear aims.

The West fears Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Watch comments on this issue from IAEA Chief Inspector Herman Nackaerts and U.S. CIA Director David Petraeus

Nackaerts said the IAEA and Iran have "a lot of work" to do, but that both sides are committed to resolving outstanding issues. He declined to elaborate.

The IAEA issued a report in November citing evidence of Iranian efforts to design a nuclear weapon in violation of international sanctions and agreements. Iran says the report was based on fabrications.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Wednesday the IAEA team asked questions about the allegations in the report. He did not say how Iran responded.

Salehi told Iran's Fars news agency, though, that the meetings with the IAEA team were "good." He also said the U.N. experts declined an Iranian offer to conduct a tour of the country's nuclear sites.

Tensions between Western powers and Iran have risen in recent weeks, with the United States and European Union tightening sanctions on Iran to pressure it into stopping uranium enrichment - a process that has military and civilian uses. Iran has responded to the sanctions by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key pathway for global oil supplies.

The United States and European Union have urged Iran to engage in serious talks with world powers to address their concerns about alleged military dimensions to Iran's nuclear work. The talks were suspended one year ago. Iran has said it is prepared to resume the discussions, but no timetable and venue have been set.

In an interview with VOA, Stephen Zunes, a Mideast analyst at the University of San Francisco, said Western sanctions are having an economic impact on Iran, but the political impact remains unclear.

He said that if the sanctions end up hurting ordinary Iranians more than Iranian elites, it may get people to rally around the flag and may give the regime an excuse to confront what he called a growing popular outcry about its misguided economic policies.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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