Iran Confirms Invitations to Tour Nuclear Sites

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility (file photo)

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January 04, 2011 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Iran has invited foreign diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, but diplomats say Tehran has left out several key world powers.

Iranian officials have suggested that the all-expenses-paid visit take place on January 15 and 16, ahead of Iran’s talks on its nuclear program in Istanbul later this month with world powers. Representatives of the P5+1, a group comprised of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, are scheduled to be meet with Iranian officials later this month.

Diplomats familiar with the invitations said Monday that Iran sent them to Russia and China – two of the P5+1 members – along with Egypt, Cuba and Hungary, which currently holds the EU presidency.

But the diplomats said Iran did not invite the other four P5+1 members – the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that invitations were extended to representatives of some European Union countries, some members of a group of non-aligned nations and some of the P5 +1 members.

The U.S. has been one of the harshest critics of Iran’s nuclear program, which it suspects is being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful means. 

China has confirmed it has received an invitation, but did not specify if it will send a representative.  A foreign ministry spokesman said China is in communication with Iran.  

Iranian state-run media quote Mehmanparast as saying his country’s invitations are in line with previous measures regarding its “transparent and peaceful nuclear activities.”

Iranian officials say the tour would include a visit to the country’s uranium enrichment site at Natanz as well as its heavy water facility at Arak.

Western powers want Iran to halt its enrichment program, which they suspect is a cover for an effort to build a nuclear arsenal.  Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium for civilian use and asserts that it does not want atomic weapons.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend enrichment.  The U.S., the EU and other nations also have imposed economic sanctions on Tehran.  (*)

Iran invites EU, Russia and China to tour nuclear sites

Senior Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh

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January 04, 2011 (KATAKAMI / TELEGRAPH.CO.UK) — Iran has invited Russia, China, the EU and its allies to tour its nuclear sites, in an apparent move to gain support ahead of a new round of talks with six world powers.

In a letter seen by The Associated Press, senior Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh suggests the weekend of Jan. 15 and 16 and says that meetings “with high ranking officials” are envisaged.

The offer comes weeks before Iran and the six powers follow up on recent talks that ended with agreement on little else but to meet again. The US was not among those invited to tour the sites.


FILE : Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (L) shakes hands with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Baku, November 18, 2010. World powers should stop threatening Iran if they want to achieve results at talks on Tehran's nuclear programme, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

The new round between Tehran, and the permanent UN Security Council members (USA, Russia, China, Britain and France) plus Germany, is tentatively due to take place in Turkey in late January.

It is meant to explore whether there is common ground for more substantive talks on Iran’s nuclear program, viewed by the US and its allies as a cover for secret plans to make nuclear arms – something Tehran denies.

Instead, the Islamic Republic insists its uranium enrichment and other programs are meant only to generate fuel for a future network of nuclear reactors.

The offer of a visit comes more than three years after six diplomats from developing nations accredited to the IAEA visited Iran’s uranium ore conversion site at Isfahan, which turns raw uranium into the feedstock gas that is then enriched. Participants then saids they could not make an assessment of Iran’s nuclear aims based on that visit to that facility in central Iran.

But the new offer appeared more wide ranging, both as far as nations or groups invited and sites to be visited. (*)


Iranian official: Istanbul talks can resolve nuclear row



Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the media during a news conference in Istanbul December 23, 2010. REUTERS/Umit Bektas



December 27, 2010. DAMASCUS (KATAKAMI / THE DAILY STAR-LEBANON/ AFP) —  A senior Iranian official said in Damascus Monday that next month’s talks in Istanbul between world powers and Tehran could resolve their dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

“We think [the negotiations], in line with the agenda decided in Geneva, could clear the way to resolving problems,” said Ali Bagheri, the deputy of Said Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator.

“Continuing the negotiations in Istanbul could bring gains to both the parties concerned,” Bagheri told a news conference after talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But he criticized the West’s two-pronged policy of negotiations at the same time as sanctions, warning it would “lead nowhere.”

Despite four sets of UN sanctions slapped on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program, Iran was “carrying out the most extensive economic program in its history, showing its level of political, economic and social stability.”

Negotiations “based on dialogue and cooperation could bring the other parties out of their impasse,” said Bagheri.

Assad, quoted by the state news agency SANA, called in his talks with Bagheri for “a diplomatic compromise guaranteeing Iran’s right to possess peaceful nuclear energy.”

Last week on a visit to Istanbul for a regional summit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the world powers to choose cooperation over confrontation at the nuclear talks in late January.

“We think this meeting will be very important,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference in Istanbul, which will host the talks between six world powers and Iran, expected to be held in late January.

“We have suggested that in the forthcoming Istanbul meeting, confrontation be replaced with cooperation and … this will be in the interest of all sides,” he said through an interpreter.

“In cooperation we will have a win-win situation. There is no failure or defeat for any party.

“So we think the Istanbul meeting will be a historical and landmark event and we can replace confrontation with cooperation,” he said.

The negotiations would be the second round between Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Russia, US and Germany – after talks resumed in Geneva earlier this month following a 14-month hiatus.

Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government has established close ties with Tehran, insisting on a diplomatic solution to the nuclear row and reluctant to back a tougher line against the Islamic Republic, its eastern neighbor.

The West suspects that Tehran is developing an atomic bomb under the guise of a nuclear energy program. Iran denies the charges and insists its activities have a purely peaceful purpose. –



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