Iran says invites U.N. nuclear agency to visit

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2011 10:58 AM
Iran says invites U.N. nuclear agency to visit

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has invited the U.N. nuclear watchdog to visit for talks, an Iranian envoy told Reuters on Tuesday, suggesting Tehran would be prepared to address concerns about its atomic ambitions.

Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Iran earlier this month sent a letter to U.N. nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano, who last month issued a report which pointed to military links to Tehran's nuclear program, a charge it denies.

The letter, Soltanieh said, renewed an Iranian invitation from October for a team of senior International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials to travel to the country.

"I have also had discussions with the officials of the agency and we are planning for the visit," Soltanieh said.

Western diplomats tend to see such invitations as attempts by Iran, which is facing tightening sanctions, to buy time and ease international pressure.

Amano has made clear that any new visit to Tehran by senior IAEA officials must address its growing concerns about potential military aims of the nuclear program, which Iran says is strictly peaceful.

Asked whether Iran would be willing to discuss such issues, Soltanieh said: "We are going to discuss any questions and to work towards removing the ambiguities and resolving the issue."

A senior Western diplomat earlier said Iran's offer of talks

included no promise that discussions would cover issues raised in the November 8 IAEA report, which suggested Iran had worked on developing the means to build a nuclear weapon.

"Apparently the Iranians have invited agency officials, but the offer is clearly just part of their amateurish charm offensive," the diplomat said. There is "no commitment to talk substance ... same old movie."

Western countries seized on the IAEA report last month to ratchet up economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, one of the world's largest oil producers.

Previous visits by senior IAEA officials have failed to make significant progress towards resolving the long-running row over Iran's nuclear program, which has the potential to spark a wider conflict in the Middle East.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jon Boyle)