Disappointment as Tehran nuclear talks prove fruitless

 

Jerusalem

UN experts have returned from Tehran empty-handed after two days of talks focused on Iran’s nuclear programme, narrowing the options for diplomacy amid fears of a military confrontation with Israel and the West.

In unusually frank comments, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was “disappointed” with Iran’s refusal to allow inspectors to visit sensitive military sites amid widely-held suspicions that Tehran is building an atomic bomb. 

In a defiant message to the Iranian people yesterday, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the country’s spiritual leader, firmly restated the regime’s claim that its atomic programme is peaceful and that nuclear research would continue. In a televised speech that made no mention of the IAEA visit, he denounced nuclear weapons as “useless, harmful and dangerous.”

But the refusal to accommodate UN inspectors will fuel Western suspicions that the Iranian regime has something to hide, and play into Israel’s hands, which has lobbied for a pre-emptive air strike, arguing that Iran is nearing a “zone of immunity,” when its nuclear facilities will be moved into impregnable underground bunkers.

It will also dash hopes of an early renewal of negotiations with the West after Iran suggested that it was willing to bring “new initiatives” to the table, prompting cautious optimism in some circles. 

Reflecting a growing sense of frustration, Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA’s chief inspector, was swift in his condemnation. Shortly after his plane touched down in Vienna early yesterday, he said that his team “could not find a way forward.” The UN watchdog drew particular attention to the refusal to grant access to Parchin, a site where Iran is believed to have facilities to test explosives for detonating a nuclear device. Tehran refused the IAEA access to the site on a previous visit three weeks ago.

“It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings,” Yukiya Amano, the IAEA’s director-general, said.  “We engaged in constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached.”

The IAEA board is scheduled to meet next on 5 March, where it will consider a response. In a damning report last November, the body suggested that Iran had until quite recently pursued a nuclear weapons programme, claims that dramatically strengthened the resolve of Western powers to impose tougher sanctions, including an oil embargo scheduled to begin in July. The findings also heightened speculation that Israel could bomb Iran this year with Washington’s ability to restrain Israel weakened by election year considerations.

This week, a top military official vowed Iran would not sit quietly if Iran’s national interests were endangered, warning of pre-emptive action. Officials have also threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic oil shipping lane, and Iran last week halted oil exports to Britain and France – a largely symbolic move -- in retaliation for energy sanctions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test