IAEA plans to visit Tehran for nuke talks

IAEA plans to visit Tehran for nuke talks

VIENNA - Reuters
IAEA plans to visit Tehran for nuke talks

Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh (L) attends an IAEA bord of governors meeting in Vienna. REUTERS photo

Senior U.N. nuclear watchdog officials could visit Iran for talks, the agency said yesterday, a day after an Iranian envoy suggested Tehran would be ready to discuss international concerns and remove “ambiguities” about its atomic activities.

 Iran’s latest overture to the Vienna-based U.N. agency, which has long urged Tehran to address disputes about its nuclear agenda, coincides with a sharpening of international sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear work. The Islamic Republic says it is enriching uranium solely for peaceful purposes but its foes suspect this has military aims. “We’re working on a possible visit,” Gill Tudor, spokeswoman for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in an e-mail response to a question.

 Western fears that Iran is seeking to develop atomic bomb capability were reinforced by a Nov. 8 IAEA report that said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon. Suspicions have been stoked by Iranian secrecy and lack of full cooperation with inspectors from the IAEA, whose job is to verify that countries’ nuclear activities are peaceful.

 Iran says its nuclear work is a peaceful bid to generate electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.

 Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA on Tuesday told Reuters that Tehran had renewed its invitation - first issued in October - for a senior agency team to travel to the Islamic Republic. Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the purpose would be “to work to remove any ambiguities with the aim of resolving the issues and to conclude and stop this endless process”. Iran initially invited Herman Nackaerts, IAEA deputy director general and head of nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide, in October. But Iran’s angry reaction to the agency report the following month threw those plans into doubt.

 Western diplomats tend to see such invitations as attempts by Iran, a major oil producer, to buy time and ease international pressure without heeding U.N. demands to curb activity that could be put to making atomic bombs and be transparent about its programme to ease misgivings about it.