Iranian nuclear diplomacy gathers pace with busy week ahead
Vienna: Diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iran nuclear standoff gather pace next week with a series of meetings in Vienna ahead of crunch six-party talks in Geneva on November 7-8.
On Monday UN atomic watchdog head Yukiya Amano will meet Abbass Araqchi, deputy foreign minister and Tehran`s chief nuclear negotiator in Iran`s fresh diplomatic push under new President Hassan Rowhani.
On the same day, the International Atomic Energy Agency will hold separate talks with Iranian officials on allegations that prior to 2003, and possibly since, Tehran carried out nuclear weapons research.
Then on Wednesday and Thursday, a seven-member expert Iranian team will meet with counterparts from the six powers - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany - to prepare the groundwork for the Geneva gathering.
All the meetings are to be held behind closed doors.
Iran denies seeking or ever having sought nuclear weapons, and, in defiance of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and painful sanctions, has steadily expanded its nuclear programme over the years.
Some experts warn that next year, Iran may reach "critical capacity" - the point at which it could, in theory, process enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb before being detected.
But since becoming president in August, Rouhani, seen as a relative moderate, has raised hopes that the long-running crisis can be resolved and threats of military action silenced for good.
Iran`s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in September held a landmark meeting with his US counterpart John Kerry during the UN General Assembly.
US President Barack Obama and Rouhani also held a historic phone-call - the first between leaders of their estranged nations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Then in Geneva on October 15-16, Iran presented to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1 or E3+3) a new proposal that
Araqchi said could settle the dispute "within a year".
The White House said Iran had shown a greater "level of seriousness and substance that we have not seen before" at the Geneva meeting, cautioning however that actions, not words, were needed.
In Iran`s parallel talks with the IAEA there has also been optimism, with the watchdog describing its first meeting with Iran`s new Vienna envoy on September 27 as "very constructive".