Iran must speed up its cooperation with an investigation into alleged nuclear weapons projects, US and EU envoys said on Thursday in Vienna, warning that the issue was key to negotiations on a wide-ranging nuclear deal.

wpid-Iraq-And-North-Korea-And-The-Development-Of-Nuclear-Weapons.jpgDiplomats were discussing the sluggishness of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) investigation at an IAEA board meeting, hours before new talks between six world powers and Iran were set to start in New York.

“It is essential that they quicken the pace,” US envoy Laura Kennedy said.

The deal that six states – Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany – are trying to reach with Iran by November 24 would impose further limits on Iran’s nuclear programme, and allow for more intrusive IAEA inspections. In return, economic sanctions targeting Iran would be lifted.

The IAEA suspects that 12 research and development projects are developing nuclear weapons parts, but Iran has only provided explanations about one of them so far.

Reaching a deal is increasingly seen as potential step to mend ties between the US and Iran at a time when both powers are facing common challenges in Iraq and other Middle Eastern hot spots.

One of the main sticking points has been how much Iran will have to cut back its uranium enrichment, a process that could theoretically be used to make nuclear weapons material.

In the previous rounds of talks, progress had been made on finding ways to limit plutonium production at the Arak reactor, which is still under construction.

While the sextet worries that enriched uranium and plutonium could be used to make nuclear warheads, Tehran’s leaders stress that they are only interested in nuclear power and other peaceful uses.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that while it would be easy to find agreement on the nuclear issues, the US was holding up the deal because of its reluctance to ease sanctions.

“The United States is obsessed with sanctions,” he said at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York.

In New York, top-level diplomats from the sextet were to meet for internal consultations Thursday, while the US and Iran were holding bilateral meetings, a Western diplomat and the US state department said.

A full meeting between all involved parties is set to be held Friday, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the chief negotiator of the six powers.

GNA

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