VIENNA - A senior Iranian official expressed hope on Wednesday that his country and the UN nuclear watchdog would soon be able to seal a framework agreement to resume a stalled investigation into Tehran's disputed atomic activities.
Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh spoke two days before he is due to meet senior UN nuclear agency officials in Vienna in an attempt to finalize the accord aimed at unblocking the agency's probe into suspected atomic bomb research in the Islamic state.
Western diplomats say they doubt that Iran, which they often accuse of seeking to buy time for its nuclear program, will implement any accord that it signs with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based UN watchdog.
Iran denies Western allegations that its nuclear programme is a covert bid to develop the capability to make nuclear arms.
"We have decided to work with the agency ... to prove that those allegations ... are forged and fabricated. That is exactly what we are going to do," Soltanieh told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board.
Iranian officials have made clear that only after reaching this kind of deal will they consider allowing inspectors to visit the Parchin military site, where the IAEA suspects Iran built a steel containment vessel in which to carry out the explosives tests.
Soltanieh said good progress had been made in previous meetings with the IAEA on trying to agree a so-called "structured approach" on how to deal with the agency's questions.
"We will try to continue to work on the text of the structured approach. Hopefully we will be able to conclude it in a way that it will be ... a good basis for our work in the future," Soltanieh said.
Asked whether he believed it could be signed on Friday, he said: "I'm always (an) optimist and I hope that the agency also takes into serious consideration our concerns."
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday that China opposes any Middle East country acquiring nuclear weapons, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Iran is at the center of a standoff over its disputed nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its aim is the peaceful production of electricity.
Wen added that China "upholds that the Iranian nuclear issue should be addressed through diplomatic channels in an impartial way", the report added.
Ahmadinejad is in China to attend a security summit hosted by the Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
China and Iran have close energy and trade ties, and Beijing has repeatedly resisted US-led demands to impose tougher economic sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
China has repeatedly urged a negotiated solution to the dispute over Tehran's atomic activities and has condemned sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union which have not been supported by the UN Security Council.
For his part, Ahmadinejad told university students in Beijing that a "wolf" was trying to consume the world in a thinly disguised criticism of the United States, and urged Beijing to stand with Tehran to promote world peace.
"In our time, a wolf has been discovered that is trying to devour the world," he said, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA.
"This wolf has launched several wars across the globe and along with the Zionist regime, it has put the Palestinian nation under pressure... In this world today, we need leaders who are virtuous."