By Kelsey Davenport
After the two days of meetings in Vienna the IAEA and Iran issued a joint statement that described the discussions as "substantive" and referenced the "new proposal" presented by Tehran. The proposal was described as containing "practical measures" to "strengthen cooperation and dialogue with a view to future resolutions of all outstanding issues."
The IAEA laid out its outstanding concerns in a detailed annex to its Nov. 2011 report to Board of Governors on Iran's nuclear program. Only with Iranian cooperation can the IAEA answer these questions and assure the international community that Iran is no longer pursing actions related to nuclear-weapons development.
This about-face came just over a month after Tehran's Sept. 26 response to the IAEA's August report on Iran's nuclear program, a document that echoed the approach of the Ahmadinejad government on the negotiations with the IAEA – denial of the legitimacy of the evidence obtained by the agency about Iran's past nuclear activities with possible military dimensions and attempts to dramatically limit the scope and sequencing of the IAEA's proposed plan for investigating these outstanding concerns.
In a press briefing following the culmination of the talks, Iran's new Ambassador to the IAEA Reza Najafi said the proposal will "open a new chapter" in cooperation between Tehran and the IAEA.
Resolving the IAEA's questions about Iran's possible activities applicable to building nuclear weapons is a key component to a final deal that Iran is negotiating with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) over the limits to its nuclear program. One of Iran's primary objectives in these talks is preserving what it sees as its right to enrich uranium, which U.S. policymakers have said requires resolving questions about the purpose of Iran's nuclear program.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid this out in testimony before House Foreign Affairs Committee in March 2011. In a response to a question allowing about future enrichment in Iran, Clinton said, "it has been our position that under very strict conditions Iran would, sometime in the future, having responded to the international community's concerns and irreversibly shut down its nuclear weapons program, have such a right under IAEA inspections. I think that is the position of the international community along with the United States."
Officials from Iran and the IAEA will meet again in Tehran on Nov. 11.