Turkey considering Iran's invitation to visit nuclear sites

Turkey is among countries that were invited by Iran on Tuesday to visit key nuclear facilities, officials said.

Turkey considering Iran's invitation to visit nuclear sites

World Bulletin / News Desk

Turkey is among countries that were invited by Iran on Tuesday to visit key nuclear facilities, officials said, while noting that the invitation was conveyed to Turkey's permanent representative to the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna.

Iran's surprise invitation, which was also conveyed to representatives of Russia, China, the European Union and others, left out Britain, France, Germany and the United States -- the countries most opposed to its nuclear program.

Turkish diplomatic sources, speaking on Tuesday evening, confirmed that Iran's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conveyed an invitation to Turkey's representation in Vienna. The same sources said no final decision has yet been made and that Turkey is still considering its response to Iran's invitation.

Iran's move has been generally considered as a bid to show openness before Tehran and six world powers are due to meet in İstanbul in late January to discuss its disputed atomic activities. In the letter, Iran said the visit could take place on Jan. 15 and 16.

None of the four major Western powers in diplomatic efforts to resolve the long-running dispute -- the United States, Britain, Germany and France -- received invitations.

The United States and Britain dismissed the Iranian move, as did Western analysts who viewed Tehran's gesture as a public relations exercise and said Iran would be more transparent if it gave international inspectors greater access to its sites.

Iran resumed nuclear talks last month in Geneva with the so-called P5+1 nations -- UN Security Council permanent members China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States plus Germany -- after more than a year. The second round will take place in İstanbul, though the parties have not yet set a date.

Hungary, the current EU president, said it was invited. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has represented the bloc in negotiations so far, not the EU presidency holders.

“We are still trying to determine who is on Iran's invite list. We aren't,” US State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley told Reuters.

A US official who spoke on condition of anonymity said neither the United States nor the EU3 -- European Union members Britain, France and Germany -- have been invited.

“A fair number of invitations have been issued. The pattern is clearer regarding who is not invited -- the US and E3 -- than who is invited,” said the official.

Last May, together with Brazil, Turkey brokered a nuclear fuel swap deal with Tehran in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to avoid new sanctions on Iran agreed to by the Security Council in June. Both countries voted against the sanctions and have said diplomacy is needed to solve the dispute over Iran's nuclear enrichment, which produces material that could be further processed for military use.

A renewed nuclear fuel swap deal is likely to be on the agenda of the İstanbul talks, with Tehran preferring Turkey again as a storage venue for shipping low-enriched uranium.

Last Mod: 05 Ocak 2011, 17:34
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