May 18, 2012 5:47 pm

Tehran agrees to meet IAEA chief

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will make his first official visit to Iran this weekend, where he will meet Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

The visit is the first by any IAEA director-general to Iran in nearly three years and suggests that the Iranian regime may be prepared to make concessions relating to the nature of its nuclear programme.

The IAEA has been asking Iran to grant access to sites where it believes work may have been done contributing to the manufacture of a nuclear weapon.

News of the trip could be an indication that an agreement has been reached between Iran and the IAEA after more than four years of Tehran refusing the agency access to sites, information and officials.

In a report last November, the IAEA cited information provided by a member state indicating that Iran may have conducted high-explosive tests of components for an atomic weapon at its Parchin military complex, 18 miles south-east of Tehran. Iran has until now declined IAEA requests to visit the facility.

The IAEA is also asking Iran to answer questions relating to what the agency calls “possible military dimensions” of its programme, with inquiries relating to activities over a number of years.

Western diplomats said Mr Amano’s visit was potentially significant, coming on the eve of talks between Iran and world powers over the nuclear programme in Baghdad next week.

“It is indicative that progress is being made around ‘possible military dimensions’ but there is as yet no done deal here,” said a diplomat. “Amano clearly thinks Iran is moving and wants to try and take things forward, otherwise he wouldn’t be making this trip. But it is actions not words we need from Iran at this stage.”

IAEA officials refused to comment on the trip, other than to state that this would be the first visit by an IAEA director-general to Iran since October 2009 when Mr Amano’s predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei visited.

In Prague yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, said he was sceptical that Iran would agree to halt its nuclear programme and accused Tehran of playing a “chess game” with the international community.

“Nothing would be better than to just see this issue solved diplomatically,” Mr Netanyahu said. “But I have to say I see no evidence whatsoever that Iran is serious about ending its nuclear programme.’’

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