* U.N. inspectors in Tehran for first talks since August
* No sign whether they will gain access to Parchin site
* Meeting closely watched by major powers
DUBAI, Dec 13 Iran said progress was made in
Thursday's talks in Tehran with senior U.N. nuclear inspectors
but gave no details other than they would meet again in
There was no immediate comment from the U.N. International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the one-day meeting over
Iran's disputed nuclear programme, and no sign its inspectors
would gain access to the Parchin military complex as requested.
The agency believes Iran has conducted explosives tests with
possible nuclear applications at Parchin, a sprawling facility
southeast of Tehran, and has repeatedly asked for access.
The talks were the first between the U.N. agency and Iran
since August and the outcome could give some indication whether
Iran - which denies it wants to develop atom bombs - is any more
willing to address international concerns over its nuclear work
after U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election last month.
In the latest sign of how Washington is ratcheting up the
pressure on Iran, the United States imposed sanctions on
Thursday on seven companies and five individuals that it said
provided support to the Islamic state's nuclear programme.
The U.S. Treasury Department said the action would bar those
companies and individuals from doing business with U.S. firms or
citizens, and freeze any assets they have in the United States.
U.S. ally Israel - believed to have the Middle East's only
nuclear arsenal - has threatened military action if diplomacy
and economic sanctions intended to halt Iran's uranium
enrichment activities fail to resolve the long-standing dispute.
After previous rounds of talks between the U.N. agency and
Iran this year - which did not yield any breakthrough on a
long-stalled IAEA investigation into suspected atom bomb
research - the two sides often gave different versions of
One Western diplomat in Vienna, commenting on the Iranian
media reports, said on Thursday one of the IAEA's main goals in
this week's talks had been to visit Parchin and this did not
appear to have been achieved.
NEW PARCHIN "LAYOUT"?
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh said
progress had been made, official media reported, without giving
any examples of concrete steps forward.
"Intensive negotiations were held ... There was good
progress made. The two sides agreed to hold the next round of
talks on Jan. 16 in Tehran," IRNA news agency quoted him as
The U.N. team was expected to return to Vienna on Friday.
The IAEA wants an agreement that would enable its inspectors
to visit Parchin and other sites that it suspects may be linked
to what it has called the "possible military dimensions" to
Iran's nuclear programme.
Iran says Parchin is a conventional military site and has
dismissed allegations that it has tried to clean up the site
before any visit.
Western diplomats say Iran has carried out extensive work at
Parchin over the past year - including demolition of buildings
and removal of soil - to cleanse it of any traces of illicit
activity. But the IAEA said a visit would still be "useful".
A U.S. think-tank said late on Wednesday that new satellite
imagery showed "what appears to be the 'reconstruction' phase"
of the site at Parchin that the IAEA wants to see, following
"considerable alterations" there earlier in the year.
"A new site layout is taking shape and the presence of dirt
piles and a considerable number of earth-moving vehicles and
cars suggest that construction is continuing at a steady pace,"
the Institute for Science and International Security said.
The IAEA's meetings with Iran are separate from - but
closely linked to - broader efforts by six world powers to
resolve the decade-long nuclear dispute.
On Wednesday, senior European Union and Iranian diplomats
discussed the timing of possible new talks between Iran and
Britain, France, Germany, United States, Russia and China.
The powers want Iran to curb its uranium enrichment
programme - work which can have both military and civilian
purposes - and cooperate fully with the IAEA. Iran wants the
West to lift sanctions hurting its oil-dependent economy.