Vienna: The UN nuclear agency pressed Iran on Tuesday to address concerns about suspected bomb research, saying it was ready for talks soon and avoiding any mention of Tehran's allegation that "terrorists" may have infiltrated the Vienna-based watchdog.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a statement on a meeting between IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Iranian nuclear energy head Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani on Monday, which was held just hours after Abbasi-Davani sharply criticised the UN body in a speech to its annual assembly.
Amano said it was essential for Iran to cooperate with his inspectors to clarify suspicions about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme, a charge Tehran rejects.
He told Abbasi-Davani that the IAEA "is committed to continued dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran and expressed the readiness of agency negotiators to meet with Iran's in the near future", the statement said.
Western diplomats said they expected the next meeting to be held in October but the venue is still unclear.
The UN agency has been seeking to resume a long-stalled investigation into Iran's atomic activities, but talks that began in January have made little headway, with the two sides disagreeing on how it should be carried out.
The IAEA-Iran discussions are separate from a diplomatic push by six world powers - including the United States, Russia and China - to find a negotiated solution to the nuclear dispute and avert the threat of a new war in the Middle East.
But they also want Iran to show full nuclear transparency as well as to curb its uranium enrichment. As part of that process, which also has made little progress, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was due to meet Iran's nuclear negotiator Saaed Jalili in Istanbul on Tuesday.
Israel has signalled increasing impatience with the failure so far of diplomacy and sanctions to make Tehran back down, ramping up threats of a military attack on its arch enemy.
"TERRORISTS AND SABOTEURS"
In a sign of the depth of mistrust between Iran and the IAEA, Abbasi-Davani accused the UN agency of a "cynical approach" and mismanagement in his speech on Monday.
He said power lines to Iran's Fordow underground enrichment site were blown up a month ago, and that an IAEA inspector had asked for an unannounced visit to the site a day later and that "terrorists and saboteurs might have intruded" into the agency.
Abbasi-Davani did not say who he believed was behind the sabotage. Iran has often accused Israel and its Western foes of trying to damage its nuclear work.
Western diplomats privately dismissed the Iranian allegations against the IAEA as an attempt to divert attention from Tehran's stonewalling of the agency's inquiry.
"Iran's accusations against the IAEA are a new low. Increasingly cornered, they are lashing out wildly," said nuclear proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank.
Fordow worries the West most as it produces uranium of 20 per cent fissile purity, more than for power plants and only a short technical step from the 90 per cent needed for a weapon.
The IAEA said Amano had stressed in his meeting with Abbasi-Davani the "importance of early clarification of outstanding issues" related to Iran's nuclear programme.
"A structured approach to clarify all issues related to Iran's nuclear programme, including those related to possible military dimensions, needs to be agreed and implemented as soon as possible," Amano told the Iranian atomic energy chief.