VIENNA — In a sign that nuclear talks with Iran could be edging closer to an agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday its director would travel to Tehran to discuss ways it could conduct inspections at sensitive sites.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog group, planned to meet Thursday with senior Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, whose administration has been the driving force behind Iran’s involvement in talks.
“Discussions are expected to address ongoing cooperation between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic of Iran . . . and how to accelerate the resolution of all outstanding issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, including clarification of possible military dimensions,” the IAEA said in a statement.
The United States and five other world powers negotiating with Iran want IAEA inspectors to be guaranteed access to Iranian military sites where many nuclear and nuclear-related facilities are believed to be located.
Through methods such as environmental sampling, they said, the access will allow experts to determine whether Iran is complying with its commitments under a potential deal to limit the country’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
The powers — the five permanent members of the U.N Security Council plus Germany — also insist that Iran give inspectors access to its nuclear scientists so that the IAEA can determine whether Tehran conducted research in the past on how to potentially weaponize its nuclear stockpiles.
Iran says its nuclear work has been for nonmilitary purposes — an assertion the United States does not believe.
The six-nation negotiating group, known as P5-plus-1, insists on IAEA verification of Iran’s current and past nuclear activity before agreeing to lift sanctions.
Iran, however, has balked at allowing inspectors onto military sites, fearing they will be spies. It also does not want to let them talk to its nuclear scientists. Several of the country’s nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years, and Tehran has blamed Israel and the United States for the attacks.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry met for more than an hour Wednesday with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iranian news agencies reported that technical experts have completed drafting a text that could become the framework for the final agreement.
The official deadline for a deal was June 30, but Tuesday, the negotiators announced that they would extend an interim agreement for a week, in effect setting a new deadline of July 7.
That is just two days before the White House has to get a finalized deal to Congress for a 30-day review. If the administration waits until July 10 or later, the congressional review period grows to 60 days, which potentially could cause political problems for the administration.