Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday his country is ready to cooperate more closely with International Atomic Energy Agency but only if it cancels its probe into allegations that Tehran has secretly worked on a nuclear weapons program _ a condition rejected by the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
The agency already has accused Iran of stalling the investigation and that has become a major source of international tension over Iran's nuclear program.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran is ready to work "closer than ever before" with U.N. nuclear agency, if it first ends the investigation.
He spoke after meeting with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, who has been accused by Tehran of pro-U.S. bias in his pursuit of allegations that Tehran appears to have worked on secret experiments designed to be components of a nuclear weapons program.
The agency says its investigation is part of a work plan agreed to by Iran four years ago and complains that it has been stonewalled for nearly three years.
Tehran, in turn, says the probe goes beyond the conditions set by the work plan. It argues that it has cooperated and answered all questions mandated by the plan. For years, it has demanded that the IAEA say so and declare its weapons-related investigation is closed.
Salehi on Tuesday suggested that his country is ready to discuss new terms _ but only if the agency agrees to terminate the probe by declaring that Iran has fully cooperated and met its obligations to be open and forthcoming about the alleged work on a weapons program.
Any new questions based on the allegations should be pursued "within the framework of a new mechanism ... based on the fact that the IAEA should say the first stage is over and those outstanding issues have been answered," he said.
Amano rejected the overture, however.
"The director general indicated that he is not in a position at this stage to consider the work plan to be completed," said an IAEA statement on the meeting.
It said that Amano also "reiterated the agency's position on issues where Iran is not meeting its obligations" _ an allusion to Iran's refusal to cooperate with IAEA experts on the probe and provide other answers the agency is seeking in its efforts to ensure that Tehran's nuclear program is only geared toward peaceful purposes.
Iran insists its activities are meant only to produce nuclear fuel for a future network of reactors. But its uranium enrichment program can create both reactor fuel and fissile warhead material.
It has refused to cease enrichment, despite four sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions, and has recently conducted missile tests that the West says appear to be part of a developing nuclear weapons delivery system.
Describing his talks with Amano as "very positive," Salehi said: "Both sides have promised that their experts will sit together and think of a new mechanism of doing our work."
In a departure from recent Iranian criticism of alleged pro-U.S. bias on the part of Amano, Salehi said he is "trying to do his best to be an impartial director general."
At a separate meeting with Salehi, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger criticized Iran's human rights record as "alarming" and urged Tehran to show more flexibility over its nuclear activities.
"The stalemate over the (Iranian) nuclear dossier is irresponsible," said Spindelegger.