Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Iran invites world powers to visit nuclear sites

Updated on : Tuesday, January 04, 2011

TEHRAN: Iran said on Tuesday it has invited envoys of world powers and European Union states to visit its nuclear facilities ahead of talks in Istanbul on its controversial atomic programme.

The invitation to ambassadors of the countries represented in the UN atomic watchdog comes as Tehran works to garner support for its atomic drive in the run-up to talks with six world powers in Turkey at the end of January.

"The representatives of some European Union countries, NAM (Non-Aligned Movement), and some representatives of the five-plus-one (six world powers) have been invited to visit our nuclear sites," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

He said the invitation was part of the Islamic republic's attempt to demonstrate "cooperation with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)." The "visit to our nuclear sites once more shows the goodwill of our country and the peaceful and cooperative nature of our (nuclear) activities," Mehmanparast said.

Such visits to Iran's atomic facilities are rare and the last trip which Tehran arranged for members of the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, dates back to February 2007.

The proposed new visit to nuclear facilities, Mehmanparast said, "will take place before the Istanbul meeting," for which a final date has yet to be determined.

Iran and the six powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- are to meet for another round of talks on Tehran's atomic programme. The previous round of talks, which took place after a hiatus of 14 months, was held in Geneva on December 6 and 7.

But Mehmanparast did not specify whether Iran's arch-foe, the United States, one of the six world powers negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear programme, was among those invited. Asked specifically whether a US representative would be invited, Mehmanparast replied: "The list of the countries invited for the visit will be unveiled when it is finalised."

Washington has been spearheading a campaign of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, which world powers suspect is masking a drive for atomic weapons. It has also not ruled out a military strike to stop the growing nuclear programme under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Tehran has been slapped with four sets of UN sanctions.

The latest UN sanctions were imposed on June 9, followed by unilateral punitive measures by the United States, the EU and several other countries.

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