Monday, 20 February 2012

UN inspectors visit Iran and hope for “concrete results”

UN nuclear inspectors are visiting Tehran for the second time in a month to discuss the country's nuclear programme. The delegation's chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said his team's "highest priority" was to clarify the "possible military dimensions" of the country's nuclear agenda. He added that progress “may take a while”.

Despite Western fears over Iran's uranium enrichment work, which is thought to be geared towards making nuclear weapons, Tehran insists that its programme is designed for peaceful purposes only.

In recent months, tensions with Iran have increased further due to speculations that Israel may strike the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities. In view of the situation, US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon visited Israel this weekend for talks with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Sunday 19th February, however, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey warned that Iran's programme was still dangerous, irrespective of whether or not the country was at the stage of assembling a nuclear bomb.

He added: “On that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us."

Last week, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in an elaborate ceremony to unveil new developments in the country's nuclear programme. Tehran said it had used domestically-made nuclear fuel in a reactor for the first time, as well as developing faster, more efficient uranium enrichment centrifuges.

Speaking about the visit, Nackaerts said that he hoped to have a "couple of good and constructive days in Tehran". He added: "Importantly we hope for some concrete results from the trip. The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme, but we want to tackle all outstanding issues…This is of course a very complex issue that may take a while. But we hope it can be constructive".

Sources: AFP, WSJ, Reuters, BBC News

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

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