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IAEA Chief Arrives in Iran, Hopeful for Increased Cooperation

Head of U.N. nuclear agency arrived in Iran on a visit that diplomats say could lead to further inspection of regime's nuclear facilities
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 5/21/2012, 2:09 PM

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano
Reuters

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency arrived in Tehran on Monday on a one-day visit that diplomats say could lead to an agreement for further inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities. 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano and his two aides met with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, as well as Iran's foreign minister and other officials later in the day, ISNA news agency reported.

Amano's visit is focused on getting Iran to agree to terms that will allow IAEA probes of suspect Iranian sites, including the Parchin military complex where the agency had reported suspicious activities in the past, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The Islamic Republic rejected demands made by IAEA officials who visited Tehran in January and February to inspect the site. 

Amano expressed optimism, saying he was hopeful that he would be able to reach a deal to investigate the site’s suspected nuclear developments.

"Nothing is certain in life, in diplomacy," he told reporters. "But there has been good progress.”

"I really think this is the right time to reach agreement," he added.

Amano's trip is not only significant in terms of what it can achieve in terms of probing Iran's nuclear program, but is also going to set the tone for talks in Baghdad on Wednesday between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahtpisheh told the AP that Tehran will likely accept more inspections of Parchin, "if it feels there is good will within the (IAEA) agency."

Falahtpisheh, a member of the influential parliamentary Committee of National Security and Foreign Policy, warned that this new openness will likely come with expectations that the West would ease international sanctions on Iran.

"In opening up to more inspections, Iran aims at lowering the crisis over its nuclear case," said Falahtpisheh. "But if the sanctions continue, Iran would stop this."

A political analyst in Tehran, Hamid Reza Shokouhi, said Iran is carefully watching to see if the West shows more "flexibility and pays attention to Iranian demands" during Amano's trip.

"Then Iran will show flexibility, too," said Shokouhi.

However, Israel is skeptical about the prospects for diplomacy, saying Iran is simply trying to buy time.

"We don't see any readiness from the Iranian side to give up their nuclear ambitions and for them all the engagement, from our point of view, it's clear deception," Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Sunday.