A day after their talks, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sounded upbeat about their deliberations—their cautious optimism underscored by a decision to meet again on January 16.

Herman Nackaerts the chief inspector of the Agency said in Vienna upon arrival from Tehran that his team was “able to make progress” in talks with its Iranian hosts on Thursday. He added that the IAEA was in a position to "start implementing" an agreement with Iran after the next round of talks is concluded in mid-January at Tehran.

Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh also sounded equally positive about the outcome of the Tehran round. He told Iran’s Press TV that talks were “constructive and good progress was made”.

Media coverage of Mr. Nackaert’s visit was riveted to Parchin—the Iranian military site, which the IAEA inspectors have long wished to visit. The IAEA suspects that despite the Iranian denials, the facility may have been used for experiments related to the development of an atomic weapon. Iran has in recent years, denied IAEA access to Parchin. Nevertheless, Mr. Nackaerts told reporters in Vienna that he was hopeful that IAEA experts would be allowed to visit the facility in the future.

While Iran and the IAEA seemed to be making incremental progress, the United States reminded Tehran that Washington continued to harbour hostility towards the Iranian establishment. On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Washington had imposed sanctions on seven Iranian companies and five nuclear experts for their alleged involvement in their country’ nuclear energy programme.

"These entities and individuals were designated because they provide the Iranian government goods, technology and services that increase Iran's ability to enrich uranium and/or construct a heavy water moderated research reactor," the spokeswoman said.

The new sanctions will bar interaction between American business enterprises and the designated Iranian firms and people.

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