The US has given a lukewarm response to Iran's agreement to admit inspectors to suspected nuclear sites. As diplomats gather in Iraq for further talks, experts are speculating about possible breakthroughs on the horizon.
The United States gave a muted response to a tentative agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran on Tuesday, saying it was a "step forward," but that it would wait to see if Iran honors the agreement to the full.
"It's important to note that the announcement today is a step forward," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"We will make judgments about Iran's behavior based on actions," he added.
Nuclear weapons talks with Iran seemed to achieve a modest breakthrough on Tuesday. Tehran agreed in theory to letting UN inspectors restart investigations into a site suspected of hosting tests related to atomic weapons.
The development comes as envoys headed for Baghdad to continue talks on Tehran's nuclear program. Iran is likely to try and capitalize on their concession by negotiating for a softening of Western sanctions against it at the meeting, fuelling speculation about whether the international community will respond favorably.
Fresh sanctions imposed
Overall, recent events have encouraged skepticism. US senators on Monday passed a fresh round of sanctions against Tehran, targeting the National Iranian Oil Co. and the National Iranian Tanker Co. Minority Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that any policy aiming to end "Iran's effort to acquire a nuclear weapon needs to convince the rulers in Tehran that their survival is in question."
And on Tuesday, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Iranian scientists had inserted a domestically made fuel rod, with pellets of 20 percent enriched uranium, into the core of a Tehran-based research nuclear reactor. This seemed to bring Iran one step closer to attaining proficiency in the entire nuclear fuel cycle.
Experts predict that there will be no major agreement in Baghdad and both sides will do just enough to keep negotiations rolling forward. Wednesday's meeting is between Iran and six world powers - the US, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain. It will be the second since diplomacy resumed in mid-April in Istanbul after tensions led to a 15-month gap in negotiations.
sej/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)