Russia and China will not join a weekend tour of Iranian nuclear sites, the Islamic state's envoy to the U.N. atomic watchdog confirmed on Friday, adding to a growing number of countries which have rejected Tehran's offer, Reuters reported.
The news will be welcomed in Western capitals, which had dismissed Iran's invitation to selected ambassadors accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a bid to divide the major powers ahead of talks in Istanbul next week.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's IAEA ambassador, said the trip would go ahead as planned and that he was "very pleased," saying seven ambassadors would fly to Tehran on Friday evening, including those of Egypt, Cuba, Syria, Algeria and Venezuela.
Asked whether the Chinese and Russian ambassadors would go to Iran, Soltanieh told Reuters "They are not coming ... Their decision is respected."
In Geneva earlier in the day, Switzerland's foreign minister said it and all other "like-minded" countries had rejected Iran's invitation to visit its Natanz uranium enrichment site and the Arak heavy water reactor plant on Saturday and Sunday.
The European Union refused Iran's offer last week, saying it was the task of U.N. nuclear inspectors to carry out such visits. Tehran described its invitation as a goodwill gesture before talks with major powers in Istanbul on January 21-22.
On Thursday, China effectively also turned down the invitation while Russia said the visit could not replace IAEA inspections or negotiations between Tehran and the six big powers.
Iran snubbed the United States, Britain, France and Germany by not inviting their envoys, and those taking part in the trip will now be mainly non-aligned developing countries.