Barack Obama
Barack ObamaReuters

An Iranian envoy voiced hope on Monday that talks with the UN nuclear watchdog in mid-May would help resolve "outstanding issues."

However, Iran's ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, again ruled out any halt to Tehran's controversial uranium enrichment program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] said on Saturday it would resume discussions with Iran nearly two months after the last meeting on Iran's nuclear program, on 14-15 May.

"We hope that this will be a very constructive and successful meeting," Soltanieh told reporters in vienna.

"The main purpose is to negotiate on a modality and framework to resolve outstanding issues and remove ambiguities," he added, echoing language Iranian officials have used prior meetings that failed to yield fruit.

He said that such a "framework" for future co-operation would have to be agreed to before Iran would grant the IAEA access to sites where the nuclear watchdog, Israel, the United States, several European Union countries, and the Gulf Arab states believe military nuclear work is being undertaken.

Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which obligates Tehran to allow IAEA inspectors full and unrestricted access to all of its nuclear sites.

"Every action will be implemented based on this framework, afterward," Soltanieh said when asked whether the IAEA could visit Parchin southeast of the capital Tehran.

The IAEA last November issued a report detailing alleged Iranian research and development activities that were relevant to manufacturing nuclear weapons, lending independent weight to Western suspicions based on intelligence soundings.

"We [will] never stop enrichment activities in Iran," Soltanieh said, describing it as an "inalienable right."

Western diplomats have said Tehran still appeared to be stonewalling over the body's most pressing demand to let its inspectors visit the site.

However, US president Barack Obama indicated he is ready to capitulate to Iranian demands.

The Obama administration now is willing to allow 5 percent enrichment if Iran were to take other major steps to curb its ability to develop a nuclear bomb,” the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

"Other steps” appears to refer to inspection by United Nations officials and undefined safeguards. 

The proposed concession by Obama will likely stake out a policy difference in his race against de facto GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has charged the US president has implemented a failed and weak foreign policy.

However, Americans are far more concerned with the domestic economy than Obama's foreign policy decisions.

The new concession will also strain already difficult relations between Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu told CNN earlier this month, “They have to stop all enrichment," including even 3 percent grade uranium.