News / Middle East

    Iran Confirms Invitations to Tour Nuclear Sites

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility (file photo)
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility (file photo)

    Iran has invited foreign diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, but diplomats say Tehran has left out several key world powers.

    Iranian officials have suggested that the all-expenses-paid visit take place on January 15 and 16, ahead of Iran's talks on its nuclear program in Istanbul later this month with world powers. Representatives of the P5+1, a group comprised of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, are scheduled to be meet with Iranian officials later this month.

    Diplomats familiar with the invitations said Monday that Iran sent them to Russia and China - two of the P5+1 members - along with Egypt, Cuba and Hungary, which currently holds the EU presidency.

    But the diplomats said Iran did not invite the other four P5+1 members - the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that invitations were extended to representatives of some European Union countries, some members of a group of non-aligned nations and some of the P5 +1 members.

    The U.S. has been one of the harshest critics of Iran's nuclear program, which it suspects is being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful means. 

    China has confirmed it has received an invitation, but did not specify if it will send a representative.  A foreign ministry spokesman said China is in communication with Iran.  

    Iranian state-run media quote Mehmanparast as saying his country's invitations are in line with previous measures regarding its "transparent and peaceful nuclear activities."

    Iranian officials say the tour would include a visit to the country's uranium enrichment site at Natanz as well as its heavy water facility at Arak.

    Western powers want Iran to halt its enrichment program, which they suspect is a cover for an effort to build a nuclear arsenal.  Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium for civilian use and asserts that it does not want atomic weapons.

    The U.N. Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend enrichment.  The U.S., the EU and other nations also have imposed economic sanctions on Tehran.

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