May 18, 2012 - 20:13 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog are making headway towards a framework deal on how to tackle concerns about its atomic activity, diplomats say, a potential bargaining chip for Tehran in next week's negotiations with world powers, Reuters reported.
Iran says such an agreement is needed before it can consider a request by U.N. inspectors to visit the Parchin military site where they believe explosives tests relevant for developing nuclear weapons may have been carried out.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran held talks this week in Vienna and are due to meet again on May 21, two days before Tehran and the six global powers discuss the future of its disputed nuclear program in Baghdad.
Western diplomats accredited to the U.N. agency said Iran seemed keen to agree a so-called "structured approach" - an outline of how to address the IAEA's questions - ahead of Baghdad in the apparent hope of gaining leverage there.
They say they would welcome any sign that Iran is prepared to stop four years of stonewalling an IAEA investigation based on Western intelligence suggesting the Islamic state has researched ways to acquire the ability to produce nuclear bombs.
But they caution that it remains to be seen whether an understanding with the U.N. agency is implemented in practice, saying Iran in the past has used procedural haggling as a way to buy more time as its nuclear program advances.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weaponry in the world, has made it clear it will only sign up to something that would enable it to carry out its investigation without restrictions, and not "tie our hands".
Two previous rounds of talks in Tehran early this year failed to make any notable progress. But both sides were more upbeat after the May 14-15 meeting in the Austrian capital, raising hopes of a possible outcome when talks resume on Monday.
A non-Western envoy said: "Progress has been made. My impression is that both sides have the willingness to move forward."
Iran denies having a covert atomic bomb agenda, saying it is enriching uranium only for a future network of civilian nuclear power stations and a medical isotope reactor.