Iran Nuclear NewsIran invites IAEA envoys to visit nuclear sites

Iran invites IAEA envoys to visit nuclear sites

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Reuters: Iran has invited envoys from developing nations accredited to the U.N. nuclear watchdog to visit its nuclear sites in a show of openness about its atomic fuel program, diplomats said. By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has invited envoys from developing nations accredited to the U.N. nuclear watchdog to visit its nuclear sites in a show of openness about its atomic fuel program, diplomats said.

Washington said Iran could regain trust only by cooperating fully with U.N. investigations into the nature of the program.

The Islamic Republic has been slapped with limited U.N. sanctions over suspicions that its experimental efforts to enrich uranium are secretly geared to building atom bombs, rather than to generating electricity as it maintains.

Iran has vowed to expand into industrial-scale fuel production, but has also pledged continued compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency inspections while trying to rally diplomatic support in its stand-off with Western powers.

Tehran has invited envoys from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of developing nations attached to the IAEA, and heads of the larger Group of 77 states and of the Arab League office in Vienna, to visit on February 2-6, an Iranian diplomat said.

“They have been invited to visit our nuclear installations from the 2nd through the 6th,” the diplomat, who asked for anonymity, said on Tuesday. He did not elaborate.

A NAM envoy to the IAEA said the invitation had been accepted: “It’ll be a publicity exercise for Iran — to display transparency, saying, ‘We invited the ambassadors, we’re showing them the facilities’,” the envoy told Reuters.

Gregory Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, noted that the U.N. Security Council Resolution sanctions resolution passed on December 23 requires Iran to suspend work at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Arak heavy-water reactor project.

IAEA INVESTIGATIONS IN IRAN

“Instead of inviting IAEA ambassadors, Iran should give … IAEA inspectors … access to all of those documents, nuclear facilities and individuals that Iran’s leaders have refused to provide access to for the last three years,” he told Reuters.

“Suspending these activities would build confidence. Showcasing them does not,” Schulte said on Wednesday.

Among those in the visiting delegation will be the Egyptian, Cuban and Malaysian ambassadors to the IAEA — all prominent voices in NAM, to which Iran belongs, diplomats said.

They said Iran’s gesture reflected a desire to shore up support within the 115-nation NAM in a brewing battle within the IAEA over the fate of its technical aid projects in Iran.

The NAM form a significant bloc on the IAEA’s policymaking 35-nation governing board, which may vote on whether to cancel IAEA aid projects in Iran depending on findings of a review by agency experts due for completion in February.

The reassessment was set in motion by the sanctions resolution, which bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials to Iran as well as IAEA technical aid if it has any possible application in producing nuclear fuel.

Some Western powers on the IAEA board, believing Iran must be isolated to get it to stop enrichment work, interpret the resolution to mean a large number of the 65 aid items will probably have to be cut, Vienna-based diplomats say.

But NAM nations feel most of the projects, many of which are devoted officially to the use of radioisotopes for “humanitarian” ends such as medicine, could pass muster under the resolution.

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