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Date published: 1/17/2013
TEHRAN, Iran--Senior U.N. investigators opened a new round of talks Wednesday with Iranian officials in Tehran in hopes of restarting a probe into allegations that the Islamic Republic carried out atomic bomb trigger tests and other suspected weapons-related studies.
The semiofficial ISNA news agency reported that negotiations started at the headquarters of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. It gave no further details.
The U.N. meetings are considered an important test of Iran's willingness to address Western concerns before the possible resumption of a wider dialogue with the U.S. and other world powers. Negotiations with the six nations--the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany--fell apart more than six months ago. Iran has proposed getting them back on track, perhaps as soon as later this month.
The U.S. and others hope the talks will result in an agreement that will require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a higher level that could be turned relatively quickly into warhead-grade material.
Iran denies such aspirations, insisting it is enriching only to make reactor fuel and isotopes for medical purposes.
Iran is under tough Western oil and banking sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
ISNA said European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has agreed to restart the next round of world power talks with Iran on Jan. 28-29, but no decision has yet been made on the venue. The last round, in Moscow last June, ended in stalemate.
But the IRNA news agency said the talks may not resume until early February.
Before departing for Iran on Tuesday, U.N. team leader Herman Nackaerts said the International Atomic Energy Agency hoped to "finalize the structured approach" that would outline what the agency can and cannot do in its investigation.
IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the talks would continue today.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog wants to revisit Parchin, a military site southeast of Tehran, to look into allegations that Iran may have tested components needed to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran has steadfastly denied any such activity.
Iran says the IAEA's suspicions are based on forged intelligence provided by the CIA, Israel's Mossad, Britain's MI-6 and other intelligence agencies, and that Tehran has not been allowed to see the materials to respond to them.
The IAEA also is trying to follow up on other suspicions, including whether Iran did computer modeling of a nuclear warhead core.