The U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran failed on Friday to strike a deal aimed at allaying concerns about suspected nuclear weapons research by Tehran, a setback in efforts to resolve the stand-off diplomatically before any Israeli or U.S. military action (Reuters).
A flurry of bellicose rhetoric from some Israeli politicians this month has fanned speculation that Israel might hit Iran’s nuclear sites before the U.S. presidential election in November.
Tensions rose another notch on the eve of Friday’s talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) when diplomatic sources said Iran had installed many more uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Fordow underground site.
While the new machines are not yet operating, the move reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands on it to suspend enrichment and may strengthen the Israeli belief that toughened sanctions and concerted diplomacy are failing to make the Islamic Republic change course.
“The discussions today were intensive but important differences remain between Iran and the U.N. that prevented agreement,” Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA’s chief inspector, told journalists after about seven hours of talks with an Iranian delegation in Vienna.
“At the moment we have no plans for another meeting.”
Little headway appeared to have been made on the IAEA’s most urgent request – access for its inspectors to the Parchin military site where the agency believes Iran has done explosives tests relevant for developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that “undoubtedly some progress” was made but that differences remained.
“Because it is a very complex issue … issues related to national security of a member state are something very delicate,” the veteran Iranian diplomat said.
“But I have to say that we are moving forward … and we are going to continue this process so that we at the end of the day will have a framework agreed by both sides.”
Soltanieh had said before the talks began: “Both sides are trying to bridge the gap.”
The diplomatic sources who revealed the expansion of centrifuge capacity at Fordow also said satellite imagery indicated Iran had used a brightly coloured tent-like structure to cover a building at Parchin, increasing concern about a possible removal of evidence of illicit past nuclear work there.