VIENNA Several states pledged on Thursday to back a U.N. nuclear agency request for 4.6 million euros ($5.7 million) as soon as possible to pay for its monitoring of an extended, interim nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
The support voiced at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlighted the political importance of efforts to end a 12-year dispute over Iran's nuclear program, also for countries not directly involved in the diplomacy.
Norway pledged 1 million euros - more than a fifth of the total - and the Netherlands promised 100,000 euros, diplomats who attended the closed-door session in Vienna said.
The United States and Britain, which are engaged in negotiations with Iran, said they would help. "We would like to announce our intent to make an additional extra-budgetary contribution," U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy said.
Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia failed last month to meet a self-imposed deadline to resolve the standoff, extending the talks seven more months.
Iran and the powers will meet in Geneva on Dec. 17 to narrow the remaining gaps, Iranian deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Thursday.
"There will be bilateral talks with Americans and others starting on Monday" Araqchi told the semi-official Fars news agency.
IAEA inspectors are checking that Iran meets its commitments under a preliminary deal to halt its most sensitive nuclear work in exchange for some easing of sanctions.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told its 35-nation governing board about the need for new voluntary budget contributions, in addition to requests totaling 6.5 million euros in January and July.
"I invite member states which are in a position to do so to make the necessary funding available as soon as possible in order to ensure smooth continuation of our activities," he said.
The European Union said it was "prepared to consider sympathetically the resource needs" of the IAEA.
Iran's refusal to scale back uranium enrichment has drawn international sanctions.
Iranian Ambassador Reza Najafi said negotiations had made good progress and a "lasting solution is closer than ever."
IAEA inspectors visit Iran's enrichment facilities of Natanz and Fordow daily, versus about once a week before the November 2013 agreement. The agency has also procured specialized equipment for its analytical work.
Amano said the IAEA's workload had greatly increased and that many staff "working on this matter will give up their Christmas and New Year holidays this year."
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Richard Chang)