Cool response as Iran offers nuclear site visit to West
Iran plans to invite officials from Western powers to tour key nuclear sites, its Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, but Western diplomats showed little enthusiasm for the offer, dpa reported.
The visit by diplomats is to take place before the next round of nuclear talks with six world powers in Istanbul at the end of January, according to ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.
Tehran would invite representatives from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and its political arch foe the United States - as well as the EU and the Non-Aligned Movement, he said.
He called the move a sign of goodwill that would act as proof that Iran is conducting its nuclear work transparently.
But only China and Russia have received invitations so far, while Britain, France, Germany and the US have been left out, several diplomats said in Vienna, the seat of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The European Union and China confirmed receipt of their invitations.
In addition, Egypt has been invited on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement of developing countries, as well as an official of the Arab League.
Britain, France and Germany would decline to tour the nuclear sites if they were invited, a European diplomat said Tuesday in the Austrian capital.
"It's not the role of ambassadors to go to sites," the European diplomat said. "The goal is better cooperation with the IAEA, not with ambassadors," he added, referring to Iran's refusal to let IAEA inspectors see certain sites, officials and documents.
However, the sites reportedly to be visited, a uranium enrichment plant and a power reactor, are under constant surveillance by the IAEA.
A European Commission spokesman said in Brussels that the EU would respond after consulting with its international partners and stressed the need to make progress in the recently revived nuclear negotiations.
The talks would take place on January 21 and 22, a diplomat said in Vienna.
The US reaction to Tehran's overture was also cool. "The invitation to several countries to tour the facilities is not a substitute for Iran fulfilling its obligations of cooperating with inspectors of the IAEA," a US official said on condition of anonymity.
"I think it would be a staged tour," a Western diplomat said, drawing a comparison to the 2007 visit by diplomats from developing countries to a nuclear facility in Isfahan.