Iran, IAEA Officials Meet Ahead of March Nuclear Deadline

US France negotiations
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and foreign ministers, Laurent Fabius of France (2nd L), Philip Hammond of Britain (R) and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany (2nd R), meet in Paris March 7, 2015. The United States and France sought on Saturday to play down any disagreements over nuclear talks with Iran, saying they both agreed the accord now under discussion needed to be strengthened. Evan Vucci/Reuters

Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog hold talks in Tehran on Monday, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported, ahead of a March deadline for a framework agreement on Iran's nuclear program between Tehran and six major powers.

"Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will discuss remaining issues like explosives testing and neutron calculations," ISNA said, without giving a source.

"Also issues alleged by the IAEA, related to the framework agreement, will be discussed during their one-day visit."

The IAEA says Iran has still not addressed specific issues that could feed suspicions it may have researched an atomic bomb, including questions on alleged research activities into explosives testing and neutron calculations.

Iran has rejected the accusations as baseless, but has promised to work with the IAEA as part of its efforts to end the country's decade-long nuclear standoff with the West.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet on March 15 in Switzerland, an Iranian official told Reuters.

"Then there will be bilateral and trilateral meetings with other members of the P5+1 countries ... followed by meetings between the seven countries," said the official, adding Lausanne was the likely venue.

Iran, the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain are trying to seal an understanding by the end of March before a final deal in June.

The negotiations are aimed at persuading Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief of sanctions that have badly damaged its economy.

Iran denies any intention to seek atomic weapons, saying its nuclear energy program is solely for peaceful purposes.

"The imposed sanctions on Iran are cruel and illegal ... lifting all the sanctions is the only way to reach a nuclear deal," said Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Iran has given an opportunity to the other party (P5+1) to end the artificial (nuclear) crisis."

The ministers of the four Western countries in talks with Iran - Britain, France,Germany and United States - met on Saturday in Paris to align their positions ahead of the March 15 talks. Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said more needed to be done to strengthen a possible accord.

"What we are saying is that the Iranians still have work to do. The ball is in their camp " a Western diplomat close to the talks told Reuters on Monday.