Iran dialogue 'long overdue': UN chief nuclear inspector

The chief UN nuclear inspector said today that a dialogue with Iran was long overdue, as he prepared to depart for a visit to the Islamic republic.

"We are trying to resolve all the outstanding issues with Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency chief inspector Herman Nackaerts told reporters at Vienna airport.

"In particular we hope that Iran will engage with us on the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme. We are looking forward to the start of a dialogue, a dialogue that is overdue since very long."

Nackaerts was leading a six-person IAEA team that was due to hold talks with Iranian officials from Sunday until Tuesday. The delegation also included IAEA number two Rafael Grossi.

Nackaerts, who is Belgian, declined to comment on whom he would meet during the trip, which is aimed at clearing up what the IAEA called this week "outstanding substantive issues" on Tehran's nuclear programme.

But expectations are low for the visit, with the delegation not expected to be given access to any sites mentioned in a damning IAEA report in November that raised suspicions Iran had done work developing nuclear weapons.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said on Tuesday that Tehran hoped the trip would "resolve any ambiguity and show (our) transparency and cooperation with the agency."

With Iran denying repeatedly that it wants nuclear weapons and dismissing the IAEA report as baseless, the watchdog's chief Yukiya Amano yesterday urged the Islamic republic to show "substantial cooperation" during the visit.

The report, which has led to a substantial increase in pressure on Iran from the United States, the European Union and others, detailed a string of areas in which it said Iranian activities were highly suspicious.

"We have information that indicates that Iran has engaged in activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," Amano said on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"We are requesting that Iran clarifies the situation. We proposed to make a mission and they agreed to accept the mission. The preparations have gone well but we need to see what actually happens when the mission arrives."

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