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January 04, 2011 (KATAKAMI / TELEGRAPH.CO.UK) — Iran has invited Russia, China, the EU and its allies to tour its nuclear sites, in an apparent move to gain support ahead of a new round of talks with six world powers.
In a letter seen by The Associated Press, senior Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh suggests the weekend of Jan. 15 and 16 and says that meetings “with high ranking officials” are envisaged.
The offer comes weeks before Iran and the six powers follow up on recent talks that ended with agreement on little else but to meet again. The US was not among those invited to tour the sites.
The new round between Tehran, and the permanent UN Security Council members (USA, Russia, China, Britain and France) plus Germany, is tentatively due to take place in Turkey in late January.
It is meant to explore whether there is common ground for more substantive talks on Iran’s nuclear program, viewed by the US and its allies as a cover for secret plans to make nuclear arms – something Tehran denies.
Instead, the Islamic Republic insists its uranium enrichment and other programs are meant only to generate fuel for a future network of nuclear reactors.
The offer of a visit comes more than three years after six diplomats from developing nations accredited to the IAEA visited Iran’s uranium ore conversion site at Isfahan, which turns raw uranium into the feedstock gas that is then enriched. Participants then saids they could not make an assessment of Iran’s nuclear aims based on that visit to that facility in central Iran.
But the new offer appeared more wide ranging, both as far as nations or groups invited and sites to be visited. (*)