The UN nuclear watchdog and Iran began a new round of talks on Friday in an attempt to seal a framework deal to resume a long-stalled probe into suspected nuclear weapon research in the Islamic state, a charge Tehran denies.
Also Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao met with
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Beijing, calling for Tehran to take a "flexible and
pragmatic approach" to the nuclear negotiations, Xinhau reported.
As the IAEA talks kicked off, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, smiled but declined to comment to reporters as he entered the IAEA's headquarters in Vienna for his meeting with senior agency officials.
The IAEA wants an agreement that would enable its inspectors to visit a military complex, Parchin, and other sites which it suspects may be linked to what it calls the "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program.
Iran has said it will work with the agency to prove that such allegations are "forged and fabricated."
Both sides say progress has been made in previous discussions on the issue this year, though differences remain.
Diplomats and analysts say Iran may offer the IAEA increased cooperation as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with world powers, which resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus and are to continue in the Russian capital on June 18-19.
Those talks are aimed at defusing tension over Iran's nuclear program that has led to increasingly tough Western sanctions on Iran, including an EU oil embargo from July 1, and created fears of a war in the region.
If Iran does not agree to give the IAEA immediate access to Parchin before the Moscow talks, it would be a sign that Tehran "continues to believe it is in a relative position of strength," said Bruno Tertrais of the Strategic Research Foundation.
The United States said this week it doubted whether Iran would give the UN agency the kind of access to sites, documents and officials it needs.
"I'm not optimistic," Robert Wood, the acting US envoy to the IAEA, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the UN agency's governing board. "I certainly hope that an agreement will be reached but I'm not certain Iran is ready."
His skepticism was reinforced by defiant remarks by Tehran's envoy to the IAEA, who accused the UN body on Wednesday of acting like a Western-manipulated spy service and said that Iran's military activities were none of its business. During the course of Ahmadinejad's meeting with his Chinese counterpart, the Iranian president expressed hopes that the IAEA negotiations would help ease tension, adding that his negotiators would make an earnest effort maintain contacts between all sides. Chinese President Jintao told Ahmadinejad his country is committed to overseeing a resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and cooperation, Xinhau reported.