By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. nuclear inspectors will be ready to verify the implementation of any agreement between Iran and six world powers on curbing the Islamic Republic's atomic activities, their chief said on Tuesday.
A day after he signed a cooperation pact with Iran granting the International Atomic Energy Agency access to two nuclear-related sites, Yukiya Amano also said the IAEA would issue its latest report on Iran's nuclear program in coming days.
He spoke after Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and China edged close to a preliminary nuclear accord during negotiations at foreign minister level in Geneva at the weekend and decided to meet again there on November 20.
The IAEA's talks with Iran - aimed at clarifying suspicions that Iran has carried out atomic bomb research - are separate from the big power's diplomacy but both tracks centre on fears that Tehran may be developing nuclear weapons capability.
The six nations want Iran to halt its most sensitive nuclear fuel-making work and take other measures as part of a confidence-building deal that would buy time for negotiations on a more far-reaching settlement of the decade-old dispute.
"If there is some agreement between the P5+1 and Iran and if we are requested to implement some verification measures, we are prepared to implement them," Amano told reporters at Vienna airport upon his return from Tehran.
Amano, whose inspectors are in Iran virtually every day of the year checking its uranium enrichment plants and other nuclear sites, was referring to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.
Asked whether he now expected a slowdown in the expansion of Iran's nuclear program, Amano said only that the IAEA's next quarterly report on Tehran's activities - a document that is scrutinized in the West - would be issued this week.
Iran has in recent years steadily broadened its nuclear program in defiance of U.N. demands to suspend it. But the election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as new Iranian president in June has stirred hopes of a diplomatic solution.
Under Monday's Iran-IAEA agreement, Tehran will provide inspectors access to the Gchine uranium mine and the Arak heavy water production plant within three months. The IAEA had previously asked for this but Iran had ignored it until now.
As part of six first steps to be taken by February 11, Iran will also give the agency information about new research reactors and enrichment facilities it has said it plans to build. The IAEA needs such information to fulfill its mandate to ensure there are no military aspects to the nuclear program.
But the initial steps do not appear to include requested design information about the Arak research reactor, a plant of deep concern for the West as it can yield plutonium for bombs once it starts up. Iran says it is for peaceful purposes only.
The agreement also makes no direct mention of the IAEA's stalled investigation into what it calls the possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program. Tehran says it is an entirely peaceful energy project.
As part of that inquiry, the U.N. agency has long wanted to visit Iran's Parchin military base, where it believes tests relevant to nuclear detonations took place a decade ago.
Amano acknowledged that talks with Iran since early 2012 to agree terms for the resumption of the IAEA's investigation had been deadlocked but suggested such issues, including Parchin, would instead be addressed under the new agreement in future.
"For the time being, the focus is the implementation of six practical measures that we have agreed," he said, adding that some of them were still germane to the IAEA's inquiry.
"The Iran nuclear issue is very complicated. We cannot expect that everything will come overnight," he said. "That is why we have taken a step-by-step approach."
(Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Mark Heinrich)