TEHRAN, (AFP) – A top official from the UN atomic watchdog arrived in Tehran on Monday for his second round of talks this month on Iran’s nuclear drive, the official news agency IRNA reported.
Olli Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was last in the country on August 7 for talks likely to have focused on clarifying the watchdog’s outstanding questions about Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iranian officials described those talks as “positive” but did not give any details.
Heinonen’s visit comes a day after Iran announced it had fired into space a rocket carrying a dummy satellite, a move that the United States said was “troubling” because such technology could also be used for ballistic missiles.
He has made a number of visits to Iran as part of the agency’s longstanding efforts to ensure there is no military dimension to the nuclear drive, which some Western states fear could be a cover for a secret weapons project.
Iran risks a possible fourth round of UN sanctions after it failed to give a clear response to an incentives package offered by six major world powers in return for halting uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel but also the core of an atomic bomb.
Heinonen, who is in Tehran at the invitation of the country’s atomic energy organisation, is accompanied by another unnamed IAEA expert, IRNA said.
Since April, his visits have focused on studies the IAEA suspects Iran has carried out in the past into the engineering involved in making a nuclear warhead.
In his last report on Iran in May, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei accused Tehran of withholding key information on the so-called weaponisation studies.
Iran dismissed the allegations as “baseless”, insisting it had provided a comprehensive response.
ElBaradei is due to submit another report on Iran’s nuclear programme and its cooperation with the IAEA in mid-September, before the next meeting of the agency’s board of governors.
Tehran has already been slapped with three sets of UN sanctions over its failure to heed successive Security Council ultimatums to uranium enrichment.