U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran appear to have failed again in talks this week to finalize a deal to unblock an investigation into suspected atom bomb research in the Islamic state, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran were expected to hold a further meeting on February 12, following two days of negotiations in Tehran that ended on Thursday, the source added, giving no further details.
The apparent absence of a breakthrough in the January 16-17 discussions in the Iranian capital signaled a new setback for efforts to allay mounting international concern over Tehran’s atomic aims and help avert the threat of a new Middle East war.
The Vienna-based U.N. agency had hoped to clinch an elusive framework agreement with Iran that would allow the IAEA to resume a long-stalled inquiry into suspected military dimensions to the country’s nuclear program.
The IAEA, whose mission is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, has been trying for a year to negotiate a so-called structured approach with Iran giving the inspectors access to sites, officials and documents for their investigation.
The IAEA team led by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts was due to return to Vienna early on Friday.
There was no immediate comment from the U.N. agency, which after a previous meeting with Iran in mid-December said it expected an agreement to be concluded in this month’s talks. Western diplomats later said key differences remained.
World powers were monitoring the IAEA-Iran talks for any signs as to whether Tehran, facing intensifying sanctions pressure, might be prepared to finally start tackling mounting international concerns about its nuclear activity.
The six powers - the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain - and Iran may resume their separate negotiations later in January to try to reach a broader diplomatic settlement.
They last met in June.