EU to reject Iran offer on nuclear sites - Ashton
The European Union will turn down an offer from Iran to tour its nuclear facilities, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday, but remains optimistic about talks with Iran later this month, Reuters reported.
Iran has sent letters to a number of ambassadors to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, inviting them to visit two sites -- the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Arak heavy water complex -- in the coming weeks.
Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany and the United States were not invited. But Hungary, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until July, was invited, leaving the EU in a quandary over what to do. "What I'll be saying is the role of the inspections of nuclear sites is for the IAEA and I do hope Iran will ensure that the IAEA is able to go and continue and fulfil its work," Ashton told Reuters after talks with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, saying the invitation would be declined.
While the United States and the three EU countries most involved with putting pressure on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment were not invited, Russia and China, who are also involved in sporadic nuclear talks with Iran, were.
The West suspects Iran's nuclear programme is directed at developing bombs. Tehran says it is for peaceful energy only.