December 19, 2012 - 19:54 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The United Nations nuclear watchdog and Iran may have made headway in talks on Tehran's disputed atomic activities but important points remain to be settled before a deal can be clinched, diplomats said on Wednesday, Dec 19, according to Reuters.
Both the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran said progress was achieved at a meeting last Thursday towards an agreement the IAEA says would allow it to resume a long-stalled inquiry into suspected atom bomb research in the Islamic state.
The IAEA, in a note to member states obtained by Reuters, said it "expects to be able to finalize" the framework accord on how to conduct its investigation in a new round of discussions in Tehran on January 16 and then to start implementing it.
Neither the IAEA nor Iran gave details on what kind of the progress they made in last week's negotiations.
The talks are separate from but linked to broader diplomacy by six world powers to resolve the nuclear row with Iran before it unravels into a Middle East war, feared because of Israeli threats to bomb Iranian nuclear sites.
Diplomats accredited to the Vienna-based UN agency said they believed some issues of substance were still outstanding and suggested a successful outcome was not guaranteed.
A stubborn stumbling block, a Western envoy said, was Iran's request that areas of the inquiry be declared closed once IAEA questions had been addressed. The UN agency wants to be able to return to issues if, for example, new evidence arises.
Another lingering issue, a second diplomat said, was Iran's demand for access to the largely Western intelligence documents at the basis of the IAEA's concerns about possible illicit military dimensions to its nuclear activity.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said he was willing to provide documents to Iran "when appropriate". But Western officials say it is difficult for the agency to do so when it has been given the material in confidence and secrecy by other states who may fear exposure of their sources if Iran sees the original files.
IAEA officials "do feel that there is room for optimism" about an agreement, a Western diplomat briefed about the Dec 13 negotiations in the Iranian capital said. But, "there is still work to be done to get to the final agreement".
Another diplomat in Vienna said: "Differences still remain. We have been here before."