Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Iran offers nuclear facilities tour

Iran has invited several key world powers to tour its nuclear facilities, ahead of the second-round of nuclear talks scheduled for late January in Istanbul. The UN suspects that Iran's technology used to produce fuel for nuclear power might also be used to enrich uranium; however, Tehran maintains that the programme is peaceful and intended for civil use only.

It is believed that Iran's invitation to survey its nuclear grounds was extended to Russia, China and several other EU countries but not the US. Speaking about Iran's offer, US State Department spokesman, Philip J Crowley, deemed it a “clever ploy” to dupe the international community into a false sense of security.

Iran's Foreign Ministry's spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, "The representatives of some European Union countries, NAM [Non-Aligned Movement], and some representatives of the five-plus-one [world powers] have been invited to visit our nuclear sites."

According to Mehmanparast, Iran's decision to comply with international requests to survey its nuclear grounds is a sign of “co-operation with the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA."

It has also been reported that a senior government spokesman, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, extended the selected invitees an all-expenses paid visit to the sites, due to take place later in January. China, a close ally of Iran and one of the invitees, has not confirmed whether or not it will accept the invitation. But China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that his country was in communication with Iran.

When asked about whether or not US representative would be invited to the tour Mehmanparast said, "The list of the countries invited for the visit will be unveiled when it is finalised."

According to Iranian press reports, the tour would include a visit to the country's uranium enrichment site at Natanz as well as its heavy water facility in Arak.

Sources: BBC News, Voice of America, Sky News

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

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