A group of ambassadors to the U.N. atomic watchdog toured an Iranian nuclear site on Saturday, state television reported, and Tehran says the European Union missed an historic opportunity by boycotting the visit.
Iran said the tour, which China and Russia also snubbed after being 'discouraged' by Western officials, aimed to demonstrate the country's transparency about its atomic programme before talks with major powers.
Tehran invited some ambassadors accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit its nuclear sites. The U.S, British, French and German envoys were not asked along, while the EU declined its invitation, saying it was the task of U.N. nuclear inspectors to carry out such visits.
"The EU lost the historic opportunity for further cooperation with Iran and also visiting its peaceful nuclear activities," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's IAEA envoy, told state TV before the tour.
Alongside the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations, the group of seven envoys comprised ambassadors from Egypt, Venezuela, Syria, Algeria, Oman and Cuba.
The envoys, who stay in Iran until Monday, toured the heavy water Arak installation. Later they will also visit the underground Natanz uranium enrichment site where feedstock uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas is fed into centrifuges. This is to make material to fuel power plants which could, if greatly enriched, be used for nuclear warheads.
Journalists working for foreign media in Iran were not invited to tour the sites.
Turkey talks an opportunity for P5+1
The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States -- which along with Germany are known as P5+1 -- are due to hold a second round of talks with Iran on Jan. 21-22 in Istanbul.
Long-suspended talks between Iran and major powers resumed last month in Geneva. The scheduling of a meeting next week in Istanbul was the only visible result of the meeting.
Iran has warned P5+1 that the talks could be the last chance for the West because Tehran's atomic capability was improving.
"I hope ... P5+1 countries will use this opportunity to find a face-saving manner to settle this issue they have created," Iran's top nuclear official and acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at Arak. "It will be a win-win situation for everyone."