Iran, atomic watchdog reach deal on ‘roadmap for cooperation’

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Iran will grant U.N. inspectors “managed access” to a uranium mine and a heavy-water plant within three months after reaching an agreement for a “roadmap for cooperation” to resolve remaining issues linked to Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

“This is an important step forward to start with, but much more needs to be done,” Reuters quoted the International Atomic Energy Agency’s head Yukiya Amano as saying in Tehran.

IAEA and Iran will “strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” a joint statement said.

“It was agreed that Iran and the IAEA will cooperate further with respect to verification activities to be undertaken by the IAEA to resolve all present and past issues.”

However, Amano deferred the issue of a visit by inspectors to the Parchin military complex where Iran allegedly conducted research on atomic weapons.

“Parchin continues to be important and will be addressed on the subsequent steps under this framework,”Agence France-Presse quoted Amano as telling to reporters.

“It is obvious that Iran’s nuclear issue is a complicated issue with a long history and not everything will come overnight,” he added.

Amano had said earlier on Monday he hoped to finalize a technical agreement with Iran during his visit to Tehran, days after the negotiations between Iran and world powers in Geneva failed to reach an initial agreement on the nation’s nuclear program.

“I hope that today we can have a joint statement based on understandings and agreements that are made. Technical experts from both sides are set to discuss and finalize the details of this agreement,” Amano was reported as saying by the student news agency ISNA, according to Reuters.

The nuclear watchdog chief said that his negotiations were “independent” from those held in Switzerland between Iran and the six world powers, known as the P5+1, AFP reported.

A deal with the IAEA for Iran could repair the damaged hopes for progress ahead of the next P5+1 round on November 20.

“The only reason he [Amano]would go would be if he’s confident that they were going to agree on something,” one Western diplomat in Vienna told AFP, predicting an initial accord with “confidence-building measures.”

Amano said “Iran presented a new proposal [to the IAEA] last month that includes practical measures to strengthen cooperation and dialogue, and we hope to build on it.”

The chief’s last trip to Tehran in May 2012, failed to reach an agreement with Iran.

The IAEA conducts regular inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but also wants Iran to answer allegations that it was trying before 2003, and possibly since, to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies the allegations and claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

For two years Tehran has resisted the IAEA’s requests to visit sites as well as to consult documents and speak to certain Iranian scientists.

The sites include the Parchin military base which IAEA says it has “strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development.”

Discussions with the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany are focused on Tehran’s current activities, in particular uranium enrichment, with Iran seeking sanctions relief.

The countries also want Tehran to accept more intrusive inspections by the watchdog as part of a wider accord.

The IAEA would also be closely involved in monitoring any freeze in enrichment and in Iran sending its stockpiles of nuclear material to a third country.

The three-day intense negotiations in Geneva in a bid to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment and ease sanctions failed to reach an agreement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday that he hoped Iran and the P5+1 countries would reach an agreement in their next meeting, adding that the latest round of talks was something all delegations can build on.

But Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani, said on Sunday that the country’s “rights to enrichment” of uranium were “red lines” and that his nation will not bow its head to any threat or sanction against it.

His comments came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the United States is determined to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

(With Reuters and AFP)