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UN nuclear agency reports failed Iran talks


The UN nuclear agency acknowledged renewed failure today after a trip to probe suspicions of covert Iranian nuclear weapons work, in a statement issued just hours after an Iranian general warned of a pre-emptive strike against any foe threatening the country.

The double signs of defiance reflected Tehran's continued resistance to demands that it defuse suspicions about its nuclear activities despite a growing list of international sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency made little progress in talks that ended just three weeks ago, and hopes had been low that a visit by IAEA experts to Iran that ended late yesterday would be any more successful even before the agency issued its statement.

It was issued early today, shortly after midnight and just after the IAEA experts left Tehran, reflecting the agency's urgent wish to tell its side of the story.

As the two-day trip was winding down, Iranian officials sought to cast it in a positive light, with foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast telling reporters that "cooperation with the agency continues and is at its best level."

Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insisted the Islamic Republic is not seeking nuclear weapons, saying they are "useless, harmful and dangerous," but did not mention the visit by the IAEA experts.

The IAEA team had hoped to talk to key Iranian scientists suspected of working on the alleged weapons program, break down opposition to their plans to inspect documents related to nuclear work and secure commitments from Iranian authorities to allow future visits.

Mission head Herman Nackaerts, in comments after landing at Vienna airport, said his team "approached this trip in a constructive spirit" but "could not find a way forward" in negotiations with Iranian officials. It would now be up to the 35-nation IAEA board to decide on a response when it meets starting March 5, he added.

The language of the IAEA communique clearly — if indirectly — blamed Tehran for the lack of progress.

"We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached," it quoted IAEA chief Yukiya Amano as saying.

As on the previous visit that ended in early February, Iran did not grant requests by the IAEA mission to visit Parchin — a military site thought to be used for explosives testing related to nuclear detonations, the statement said. Amano called this decision "disappointing."