IAEA ends Iran visit with no agreement reached

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) abruptly ended a visit to Iran Tuesday saying its request to visit a suspect Iranian military facility had been denied.

"It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in a press statement from the Vienna-based agency. "We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached."

Though it was the second visit of an IAEA inspection team to Iran in the past month, the atomic watchdog agency said Iran had shown little willingness to ease their concerns amid a growing standoff over its nuclear program.

The seemingly failed visit comes as the State Department said Tuesday it may issue a response later this week to Iran's letter expressing readiness to return to international nuclear negotiations, which it sent last week.

"We obviously have read the letter," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at the State Department press briefing Tuesday. "I think we are expecting to do some more work this week. I think our hope is to be able to have a little bit more to say by the end of the week."

The IAEA is expected to issue a report as early as this week on Iran's nuclear program; its assessment is certain to be clouded by the continuing stalemate in efforts to get Iran to answer questions about suspected military aspects to its nuclear program.

"It's not as though the visit was expected to actually get an explanation from Iran over [all] these questions," Paul Brannan, an Iran nuclear expert at the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C. told Yahoo News in an interview Wednesday. "But instead Iran could have shown it was ready to talk about these issues. Apparently they are not."

The Parchin military base where the IAEA inspection team was denied entry is a facility that the agency's inspectors had seen in the past. But now the IAEA has more recent satellite imagery and other information that there's a building on the facility that they had not visited. The IAEA suspects the facility may have been used to carry out tests of high explosives for a nuclear explosive device, Brannan said.

If new international nuclear talks with Iran materialize, Brannan believes they should focus on getting a short-term confidence building measure that could buy time for further negotiations, which are likely to be long and difficult.

"If they get a short term interim deal, a fuel swap deal, that would be a good deal to buy time," Brannan said.

Such a confidence building measure could involve Iran agreeing to send out its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, in exchange for fuel from the international community, suggested former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, in an interview with Yahoo News Monday.

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