Iran agreed Monday to allow U.N. officials greater access to some of its nuclear facilities, displaying a new openness with international inspectors at a time when its diplomats are seeking to win relief from crippling economic sanctions.
The pact signed in Tehran was described by Iranian officials as a "road map" for resolving longstanding disputes with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. watchdog that monitors Iran's nuclear facilities. Western governments have been pressing Tehran to allow greater transparency as one of the conditions for a broader diplomatic settlement of the nuclear crisis.
The accord does not, however, explicitly grant U.N. inspectors access to Iran's most sensitive sites, including military facilities where Iranian scientists are alleged to have carried out nuclear weapons-related research a decade ago. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who traveled to Tehran for the signing, acknowledged that key issues remained unresolved.
The IAEA negotiations are proceeding on a separate track from the high-level talks between Iran, the United States and five other world powers on proposed limits to Iran's nuclear capabilities. Those talks hit a snag over the weekend after diplomats failed to agree on an interim deal that would freeze key parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for modest relief from economic sanctions. The talks will reconvene Nov. 20.
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at a news conference Monday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, denied reports his negotiating partners from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union opposed some of the specifics of the draft agreement. Instead, he said, the Iranians were unable to accept the proposed terms without seeking additional approval in Tehran.