VIENNA - Iran's deputy foreign minister pledged a "new approach" to resolving UN concerns about its nuclear program as he began talks on Monday on easing a deadlock over an investigation into suspicions of illicit nuclear bomb research by Tehran.
Abbas Araqchi met UN nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano in Vienna, the first such high-level encounter since Iran's election in June of a moderate president committed to improving its foreign relations after years of increasing confrontation.
"It is very important for all of us that we can show concrete progress," Amano said, sitting across a table from Araqchi at International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna.
"We think this is the time to take a new approach to resolving (questions) between Iran and the IAEA and look to the future for further cooperation in order to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," Araqchi said. He gave no details.
The IAEA hopes to resume an investigation, long stalled by Iranian non-cooperation, into what it calls the "possible military dimensions" of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Tehran says it is enriching uranium solely for electricity generation and medical treatments.
"It is peaceful and it will remain peaceful for ever," Araqchi said.
New President Hassan Rouhani has raised hopes of an end to the international standoff over the nuclear program by promising to engage with the West, in return for an easing of sanctions that are severely damaging Iran's oil-based economy.
Expectations for Monday's talks were relatively high and diplomats believed Iran might soon offer some concessions, perhaps by allowing U.N. inspectors to visit its Parchin military base southeast of Tehran - long an IAEA priority.
The one-hour meeting between Amano and Araqchi was to be followed by lower-level Iran-IAEA discussions later on Monday.
Iran and six world powers are engaged in separate negotiations aimed at a broader political settlement to the dispute, which has raised fears of a new war in the Middle East. Their last meeting was held in October in Geneva, and another one is scheduled for November.
An end to Iran's higher-grade enrichment of uranium is a main demand of the powers. Refining uranium to 20 percent is sensitive as it is a relatively short technical step to raise that to the 90 percent needed for making a nuclear weapon.