VIENNA - The UN nuclear watchdog and Iran held "very productive" talks this week on how to advance a long-blocked investigation into Iranian atomic activities and will meet again in Tehran next month, they said in a rare joint statement on Tuesday.
The relatively upbeat announcement by Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency may further buoy hopes for a negotiated solution to the international standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions after the June election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who is seeking to reduce tension with the West.
The UN agency wants to resume an investigation, long stymied by Iranian non-cooperation, into what it calls the "possible military dimensions" of the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme. Tehran says it is enriching uranium solely for electricity generation and medical treatments.
The IAEA and Iran "had a very productive meeting on past and present issues", Tero Varjoranta, the agency's deputy director general in charge of nuclear inspections, told reporters at the end of the two-day session in Vienna.
Iranian Ambassador Reza Najafi said Tehran presented new ideas to overcome the dispute, which revolves around the UN watchdog's suspicions that Iran researched how to build nuclear bombs despite being part of a global non-proliferation treaty.
"I believe that, with the submission of these new proposals by Iran, we have been able to open a new chapter of cooperation," he said, standing next to Varjoranta.
Their conciliatory comments marked a change in tone after a string of meetings since early 2012 failed to yield a deal giving the IAEA access to sites, files and officials relevant to its investigation.
The IAEA talks are distinct from Iran's negotiations with world powers, but both diplomatic tracks centre on suspicions that Tehran may be seeking the capability to assemble nuclear bombs behind the facade of a civilian atomic energy programme.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in Vienna on Monday that he had put forward proposals to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and pledged a "new approach" in dealings with the UN agency. But he gave no specifics.