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IAEA: Access to Iran army site 'priority' in talks

May 5, 2012 9:09 P.M. (Updated: May 5, 2012 9:09 P.M.)
ST GALLEN, Switzerland (Reuters) -- Gaining access to a key Iranian military facility will be the priority for the UN nuclear watchdog when it resumes talks with the Islamic state in mid-May, agency head Yukiya Amano said Friday.

Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the Vienna-based UN body did not yet have a "positive response" from Iran regarding the request for nuclear inspectors to be allowed to visit the Parchin site.

But he told journalists on the sidelines of a conference in the Swiss town of St Gallen, "we would like to pursue this" issue of Parchin, where the IAEA believes nuclear-related military research may have taken place. Iran denies this.

"We need to look at all the outstanding issues, but Parchin is the priority and we should start with that," Amano said.

Western diplomats say Iran appears to be stonewalling the IAEA's request to go to Parchin and they suspect it may be "sanitizing" the site southeast of Tehran of any incriminating evidence before any visit, a suspicion Tehran dismisses.

Amano has said the agency has noticed some "activities" at Parchin -- a choice of words that Western diplomats interpret as suggesting the IAEA also harbors suspicions of possible clean-up work, on the basis of satellite images at its disposal.

Asked what he meant by "activities", Amano said on Friday: "We do not have people there so we cannot tell what these activities are."

Iran and the IAEA will meet for two days of talks in Vienna on May 14-15, just over a week before the Islamic Republic and world powers are to hold a second round of broader political negotiations in Baghdad on May 23.

"In my reading the desire to resolve this Iranian issue through dialogue is stronger now than before," Amano told the conference, referring to the resumption of diplomacy between Iran and the powers in Istanbul last month after a gap of more than a year of escalating tension.

"Recently we have witnessed a positive atmosphere but we need to have concrete results," he later told reporters.
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