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UN nuclear watchdog eyes Iranian military complex

The United Nations’ nuclear agency has held talks with Iran in an attempt to gain access to a key nuclear research site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes that Iran has used the Parchin plant, south of Tehran, to carry out nuclear tests. The IAEA, based in Vienna, suspects advanced tests related to atomic weapons were carried out at Parchin and later covered up.

Going into the talks at the Iranian embassy in Vienna, chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts said on Friday: "We are here today to continue our discussions with Iran to seek agreement on a step-by-step approach to solve all the outstanding issues."

"Of course, we will also ask Iran where they are with their responses to our request for access to Parchin," Nackaerts added.

Iran says Parchin is a conventional military site and that a broad framework agreement for how the IAEA should conduct its probe is needed before possibly allowing access to Parchin.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said he expected progress in Friday's meeting: "Both sides are trying to bridge the gap," he told reporters at Iran's mission in Vienna.

Rocky talks with world powers

The Friday meeting is separate from Tehran's negotiations with world powers that have made little headway in recent months.

Iran has held inconclusive talks with six world powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - who are pressing it to halt nuclear enrichment activities.

The focus on suspicions about Iran's nuclear ambitions mean the two sets of talks are closely linked.

jm/slk (AFP, Reuters, dpa)