Iran envoy optimistic as UN nuclear talks resume

Both sides try to "bridge gap," says Iranian ambassador to IAEA; sources say Iran boosting underground enrichment capacity.

IRANIAN IAEA AMBASSADOR Ali Asghar Soltanieh 390 (photo credit: Herwig Prammer/Reuters)
IRANIAN IAEA AMBASSADOR Ali Asghar Soltanieh 390
(photo credit: Herwig Prammer/Reuters)
VIENNA - A senior Iranian envoy, speaking on Friday shortly before talks resumed with the UN nuclear watchdog about the Islamic state's atomic activities, said he expected progress.
The two sides are trying to unblock an International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into Western suspicions - denied by Tehran - that Iran has been conducting research into nuclear weapons.
"We are determined to go to a ... positive conclusion," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, told reporters. "Both sides are trying to bridge the gap."
Chief UN inspector Herman Nackaerts said the aim of the discussions was to find an agreement with Iran on how to resolve the watchdog's questions about possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is for purely peaceful purposes.
Both were speaking outside Iran's diplomatic mission in Vienna shortly before the talks resumed.
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Iran denies any nuclear weapons aims, but its refusal to curb its nuclear enrichment program has prompted tough Western sanctions and has heightened speculation that Israel may attack its atomic sites.
Nackaerts, who heads the IAEA delegation in the talks, also told reporters he would again ask for access to the Parchin military facility.
"We are here today to continue our discussions with Iran and seek agreement on a structured approach to resolve all the outstanding issues," he said. "And of course we will also ask Iran where they are with their responses to our requests for access to Parchin and other questions that we have."
In a possible sign of further Iranian defiance in the face of such pressure, several sources said on Thursday that Iran had installed additional uranium enrichment centrifuges in its Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to protect it from attack.