VIENNA: World powers keen to re-start diplomatic efforts to resolve he Iranian nuclear crisis will be closely watching a UN atomic agency trip to Tehran on Thursday for any indications of a change in mood.
Mark Fitzpatrick from the International Institute for Strategic Studies said that after a string of failed meetings between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this year, progress would be a "pleasant surprise."
"This would portend well for P5+1 talks, it would show that Iran was changing its strategy," he told AFP, referring to negotiations between Iran and the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany that might resume soon.
"But I think the default expectation is that there will be no progress."
The IAEA wants Iran to address what it calls "overall, credible" evidence set out in a November 2011 report that until 2003, and possibly since, Iran carried out work "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."
With the bulk of this alleged evidence supplied by foreign intelligence services -- which the IAEA says it cannot therefore share -- Iran has either rejected it as fabricated or said that the activity is non-nuclear.
In particular the IAEA has pressed Iran for access to the Parchin military base where the agency says a "large explosives containment vessel" is located.
The IAEA says that "extensive activities" have been spotted by satellite at Parchin, such as the scraping and removal of earth over a 25-hectare (62-acre) area, leading to Western accusations that Iran is removing evidence.
The US envoy to the IAEA, Robert Wood, has warned that Washington will push for the agency's board to refer Iran to the UN Security Council if Tehran displays no "substantive cooperation" by the next IAEA board meeting in March.