Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, second from left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, arrive at a press conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Jason Reed, Pool)
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran agreed on Monday to allow expanded U.N. monitoring at the country's nuclear sites, including at a new reactor, state TV reported, in a deal that could boost wider negotiations over Tehran's atomic program.
The deal was struck during talks in Tehran with the U.N. nuclear chief as part of a parallel initiative to the broader efforts underway to ease Western concerns that Iran could one day develop nuclear weapons — an assertion Iran denies.
The promise to grant wider access to U.N. nuclear inspectors could help push forward talks between Iran and world powers, which failed to reach a deal over the weekend but are scheduled to resume next week in Geneva.
The so-called "roadmap" described by Iran's state TV would give the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency access to a key uranium mine and the site of a planned heavy water reactor, which uses a different type of coolant than regular water and produces a greater amount of plutonium byproduct than conventional reactors.
During the weekend talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, France insisted that more controls were needed on the planned reactor in the central city of Arak.
Plutonium can be used in nuclear weapons production, but separating it from the reactor byproducts requires a special technology that Iran does not currently possess.
Monday's deal also could open room for even wider inspections, but no details were given.
"The practical measures will be implemented in the next three months, starting from today," U.N. nuclear chief Yukiyo Amano said in a news conference in Tehran.
Noticeable absent from the announcement was mention of the Parchin military facility southeast of Tehran.
The IAEA has sought to revisit the site to investigate suspicions that explosive tests were carried out related to possible nuclear triggers. Iran denies the allegations, but has resisted opening the base.
U.N. inspectors have worked in Iran for years, but have complained about limited access to some areas and some officials.
The IAEA-Tehran talks were always a separate, but related, initiative to the international negotiations with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. Those broader negotiations ended without agreement this time around in Geneva.
Such an agreement could see an easing of U.S.-led economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's highest levels on uranium enrichment, which is a possible pathway to nuclear arms.
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