Iran says it will not let the European Union's rejection of an invitation to tour Iranian atomic plants affect upcoming talks with world powers concerned about its nuclear program.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that the talks, to be held in Turkey later this month, are "totally independent" from issues like Iran's invitation to visit its nuclear sites.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. - plus Germany, hope the talks, scheduled to be held in Istanbul January 21-22, will address their fears Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton will visit Turkey this week in preparation for talks.
Iran, which says its nuclear program is peaceful, invited foreign diplomats to visit its atomic sites a week before the Istanbul talks.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that Moscow is considering Iran's invitation "with interest," but has questions about the offer and was discussing them with the Iranians before making a decision. He indicated Russia would only agree to the proposed tour if it would help ease the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
In Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment on whether China would participate in the tour.
Both Russia and China are important trading partners for Tehran. Russia has built and is supplying the fuel for Iran's only nuclear power plant, Bushehr, which is due to start generating electricity in the coming months.
Iran says the facilities to be visited on the tour include the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Arak plutonium-producing heavy water complex.
The EU's Ashton, who heads the so-called P5+1 delegation due to attend the Istanbul talks, declined the invitation to visit Iran, saying it was the job of qualified inspectors, not diplomats, to examine nuclear facilities.
The Turkish foreign ministry said Ashton will visit Istanbul this week for preparations ahead of the talks. She will reportedly meet Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during her two-day stay, which begins Thursday.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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