A team from the UN nuclear watchdog will visit Iran on July 11-13 to discuss how to resolve questions about Tehran’s disputed nuclear activities, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Saturday.Iran says its nuclear programme is only for producing electricity. But the West suspects Tehran is building an atomic bomb as it hid sensitive research from the International Atomic Energy Agency until 2003 and has stonewalled investigations since then.
The Vienna-based UN body last Monday said Tehran had invited it to send the team after Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, agreed a “plan of action” for clearing up issues with IAEA head Mohammad Al Baradei.
“A team consisting of the agency’s deputy director and some officials … will come to Tehran to study a working plan that will answer all the remaining issues in regard to Iran’s nuclear programme,” Iran’s IAEA envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told ISNA news agency.
Olli Heinonen, the UN agency’s global head of inspectors, would lead the delegation.
“This is not a team of inspectors and they won’t have any inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites,” Soltanieh said.
In their June 22 meeting, Larijani and Baradei agreed to draw up a “plan of action” within two months defining how long-standing inquiries into the scope of Iran’s programme would be settled.
Tehran’s conciliatory gesture came as the United States, Britain, Russia, France, Germany and China began discussing a third, harsher batch of UN sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment-related activities.
Iran has been hit with two sets of limited UN sanctions since December for defying calls to stop such work, which can be used to make fuel for power plants or provide material for bombs, and open up to IAEA inquiries.
A Western diplomat in Vienna earlier this week said Iran’s effort to address the lack of international trust in its nuclear agenda looked more like a delaying tactic than a genuine turnaround. Washington has also expressed scepticism.
A year ago, Iran pledged to come up with a plan for full cooperation with IAEA officials but never followed through.
But Russia, one of five powers with a Security Council veto, has hinted at disagreement with a US thrust for new sanctions by saying it will back them only once the IAEA has exhausted all possibilities to resolve questions about Iran’s activities.
On Friday, a European diplomat told Reuters world powers were debating the idea of offering Iran a pause in seeking further sanctions if Tehran stops expanding uranium enrichment.
Iran has so far ruled out any kind of nuclear halt.
“The Iranian nation will follow what is [its] right with bravery,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior officials on Saturday, state television reported.