U.N. nuclear negotiators seeking to probe Tehran's nuclear programme for signs of secret work on atomic-weapons technology spoke of a good exchange of views on Tuesday after talks with Iranian officials, who described the meeting as having made progress.

Neither side elaborated on the substance of their talks. But in another indication that some common ground had been found after more than four years of stalled discussions, both said the talks would resume on Monday.

International Atomic Energy Agency officials had entered the talks seeking more cooperation from Iran in their attempts to investigate what the agency sees as strong indications that Tehran has conducted research and development on components of a nuclear weapons programme — something Iran strenuously denies.

In particular, they were pressing for access to a site at Iran's Parchin military facility that they suspect was used to test multi-point rapid explosives of the kind needed to set off a nuclear charge. Iran has denied such tests have taken place but has fended off repeated IAEA requests over the past three months for quick access.

Added urgency

Those requests have taken on added urgency after agency officials suggested that Tehran was cleaning up the site. Diplomats say the IAEA has seen satellite imagery showing what appear to be streams of water coming out of the building in question and of removal of bags from inside into waiting trucks.

Tehran last month said a visit was possible but only after “modalities” were worked out, and diplomats accredited to the IAEA and critical of Iran's nuclear programme have expressed concern that could turn into a drawn-out process that would allow Iran to “sanitise” the site of any signs of the explosives tests.

Chief Iranian delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh indicated Iran is continuing to insist on a comprehensive plan on what could be visited when. He told reporters the talks resulted in “progress ... regarding the preparation of modalities of a framework for resolving our outstanding issues.” He spoke of a “fruitful discussion in a very conducive environment”.

IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts was more circumspect. He said the two sides had talked about “a number of options to take the agency verification process forward in a structured way”.

Describing the meeting as focusing on “unclarified issues related to possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme,” Mr. Nackaerts said “we had a good exchange of views.”

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